Ryan's Guide to the Blake Tournament

Since this year will mark my 8th consecutive visit to the John Edie Holiday Debate Tournament, AKA Blake, I've decided to compile my experience into a quick guide for debaters who might be new to the tournament. It's a great tournament (one of the reasons that I've gone back so many times), but the venue offers some interesting challenges that you should be aware of. Really, I see teams make the same mistakes every year, so here are some tips at avoiding them.

Tip the first: Dress Warm
You'd think this would go without saying, but experience shows that it does not. This tournament is in Minnesota, in December. The weather forecast can include cold, rain, snow, fog, sleet, ice, and/or "cold enough to freeze da balls offa' pool table." Prepare accordingly.

Tip the second: How to get to the Hyatt without renting a car

One of the advantages of the Blake tournament is that you can fly in and not incur the additional expense of car rental. Here's how to rock Blake using public transit:

  1. You will be flying into the MSP airport, either the Lindbergh or Humphrey terminal depending on which airline. The directions are the same from both terminals, but make note of which you are in so you don't mess it up on the return trip.

  2. Once you land and secure your baggage, follow the signs to the light rail station or ask a friendly gate agent "Where do I go to catch the light rail?"

  3. Ride the Hiawatha Light Rail Northbound (to Downtown Minneapolis). The fare will cost you about 2 bucks.

  4. Get off at the Nicollet Mall station. Welcome to Minneapolis!

  5. You are now about 3/4 of a mile from the hotel. You can cover the remaining distance in one of three ways: (a)Walk. It's not that far. (b) Take a bus down Nicollet. The 25, 18, or 17 will bring you right to the hotel. Your train ticket is also a bus transfer! (c)Travel the "series of tubes" that we call the Skyway. You'll walk farther but stay warmer

Tip the third: how to debate in hotel rooms
Yes, that's right, the entire tournament takes place in the hotel. Of course, some of these debates are in "conference room" type areas, but you are pretty much guaranteed to have at least one debate in a plain vanilla hotel room. This might be new to you, so allow me some suggestions:

  • The tournament provides a small table for each team. You'll have enough space to prepare, but if you are the kind of team who makes a goddamn mess every round, you are going to have problems.

  • You'll also have less space to spread out your tubs, so make sure that your evidence is arranged in some logical fashion. This is good advice for every tournament, but space constraints heighten the need for organization.

  • The rooms each have a bathroom. Feel free to enjoy this convenience, but know that attempting to take a shower or "twosie" is considered highly uncouth

  • If you've never been to a business-class hotel before, remember that you are going to a magical world where everyone else pays in monopoly money except you. Bring the essentials (water bottle, toiletries, snack items) so you don't have to pay an arm and a leg for them

  • The Elevator will take forever. Do not make any unnecessary trips on the elevator. After your debate, it is best to wait in your room for your coach to call/text you and tell you where to move next.

Tip the fourth: Eat good food

The Hyatt is in a pretty good location food-wise in Minneapolis. Here are some recommendations:

In the hotel, you've got an overpriced, but not terrible sports bar (Spikes), a pretty decent cafe that will be closed most of the weekend, and a couple fancy restaurants. The Oceanaire is amazing, I've never been to Taxxi.

Around the hotel, you've also got:

  • A Chipotle on Nicollet between 11th and 10th

  • Brit's Pub, one block from the Hotel on Nicollet. Some amazing British/Pub Food. Gets very busy Friday/Saturday evening.

  • India House, located just south of the hotel at 1400 Nicolett. I live by the other India House location and it is delicious

  • Eat Street, further down Nicollet, home to many fine ethnic restaurants.
  • Masa. I've never been, but this review is making me hungry just reading it

  • Pizza Luce. It's where God calls when he wants pizza

One additional warning: Some years, debates haven't finished friday night until after 10, which puts some teams in a pickle with regards to Minnesota's rather draconian liquor laws, which don't allow underaged folk in a "bar" past 10. Basically, if your plan for Friday is Brit's or Spike's, you might want to arrange a plan B of going to Chipotle or ordering from Luce.

Hope all of your have a wonderful time debating in the City of Lakes.