>> Gophers, Fleck agree to contract amendment

(Minneapolis, MN) — The University of Minnesota and head football coach PJ Fleck have agreed to an amended contract, the school announced Friday. Fleck’s new contract includes an expanded salary pool for assistant coaches, as well as a new annual bonus. The deal is pending Board of Regents approval. Entering his seventh season as coach, Fleck ranks 5th all-time in Gophers’ history for total wins and conference wins, and also 3rd in program history for winning percentage. Minnesota finished 6-7 last season, beating Bowling Green in the Quick Lane Bowl.

>>St. Luke’s, Aspirus say merger complete, MN Attorney General Ellison announces oversight agreement

(St. Paul, MN) — As Saint Luke’s Hospital in Duluth announces it has completed a merger with Wisconsin-based Aspirus (uh-SPY-russ) Health, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison says he’s reached a five-year oversight agreement with the health providers. The agreement requires Aspirus to provide annual reports which will help the attorney general’s office determine whether the system is following through on its commitments to Saint Luke’s. Among them: at least $300 million to expanding St. Luke’s campus within the next eight years, maintaining it as a full-service acute care hospital for at least ten years, honoring all of St. Luke’s labor, union, and physician contracts, and maintaining the current scope of reproductive health care, gender-affirming care and charity care.

>> Grand Slam by Lewis Lifts Twins to Win Over Red Sox

(Fort Myers, FL) — Royce Lewis hit a grand slam to lift the Twins over the Red Sox 5-3 this afternoon (Fri) at spring training in Fort Myers, Florida. Lewis crushed a long home run with the bases loaded in the third inning to put Minnesota ahead for good. The third baseman hit four grand slams as a rookie last season. The Twins play again tomorrow (Sat 12pm) at the Phillies’ spring ballpark in Clearwater

>>Four youths charged in two separate Minneapolis robbery sprees

(Minneapolis, MN) — Officials say they considered charging 12 youths in connection with two separate weekend robbery sprees in Minneapolis, but ultimately only four were charged. Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty says merely finding a youth in a stolen car doesn’t guarantee they were involved in the theft. Moriarty says, “We have to rely on the investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department to tie together all of the evidence that would allow us to prove that a particular young person was in a stolen car at the time and actively participated in the robbery.” She says none of the youths were charged directly for the robberies. Instead, they faced other charges, such as fleeing a police officer or possessing a gun. Two of the charged cases have not been made public yet.

>>Labor Agreement Increases Wages for Metro Transit Workers

(Undated) — Wages for front-line Twin Cities transit workers will increase 13% from July 2023 to August 2025, after the Metropolitan Council approved a labor agreement this week. Under the new contract, the new starting hourly wage for bus and train operators is $27.59, and $37.80 an hour for mechanic technicians. The contract also includes higher wage rates for second and third-shift workers and more flexibility in part-time operator schedules.

>MN Nurses Association Commends State’s Rejection of For-Profit Hospital Proposal

(St. Paul, MN) — The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) is praising the state Department of Health (MDH) for its decision to turn down a for-profit hospital proposal. In 2023, Nobis Rehabilitation submitted a letter of intent to MDH outlining plans for a 60-bed rehabilitation hospital in Minneapolis. But the Health Department says such a facility would establish “unnecessary, costly capacity and potential disruption to the existing rehabilitation care delivery system in the Twin Cities metropolitan service area.”

>>St. Paul Felon Guilty of Illegally Possessing Ammunition

(St. Paul, MN) — A St. Paul man has been found guilty of possessing ammunition as an armed career criminal. Authorities say Markhel Harris-Franklin was arrested July 12th, 2022, at a supermarket where law enforcement discovered a loaded 9mm privately made handgun inside his vehicle, along with an extended magazine on the floor. Due to previous convictions including aggravated robbery, theft, assault, and domestic violence, Harris-Franklin cannot own firearms or ammunition. His sentencing will be determined at a later date.

>>MN Timberwolves, Lynx Celebrate Women’s History Month

(Minneapolis, MN) — The Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx are celebrating Women’s History Month with several special events throughout March. The teams will host a special social hour on March 18th at A Bar Of Their Own, Minnesota’s first women’s sports bar that opened today (FRI), and an exploratory panel on March 19th on how women can pave the way in careers and be leaders. Throughout the month, Education Stations will visit local schools to distribute free books to students stocked with books empowering women. The teams will mark March 27th as their Women’s History Night when the Timberwolves play Detroit.

>>Loons back at Allianz Field for first time in 2024

(St. Paul, MN) — On the heels of a season-opening road win, Minnesota United F-C returns to Allianz (ah-lee-AHNZ) Field Saturday for the first time in 2024. Starting goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair says, “So far we’ve been the only team to win away — and looking upon last year, we know that our home record wasn’t good enough. …To be able to start the season strong and… get a result at home this weekend is definitely something we’re looking for.” The Loons face defending M-L-S Cup champions Columbus and former M-N-U-F-C forward Christian Ramierz. Kick-off is 1 pm.

>>2024 Open Cup format announced

(Chicago, IL) — After weeks of uncertainty, the U-S Soccer Federation today (FRI) unveiled the finalized format for the 2024 Lamar Hunt U-S Open Cup. For the first time, only eight Major League Soccer clubs will participate, while the rest of the M-L-S field will be represented by 11 developmental NEXTPro teams –including Minnesota United FC, who will be represented by M-N-U-F-C 2. M-L-S teams competing in this year’s CONCACAF Champions Cup were excluded from selection. Running annually since 1914, the U-S Open Cup is the oldest soccer competition, a tournament featuring clubs from all four levels of soccer. Last year, the Loons lost to eventual Open Cup champions Houston Dynamo in the Round of 16.