Fire destroys Chaska pavilion, arson suspected

An arson investigation is underway after a popular pavilion in Chaska went up in flames on the shore of Lake Grace early Tuesday morning.

In an instant, neighbors found a local landmark they had grown to love was gone.

“I looked out the window and the place was completely engulfed,” said Dan Witte, a Chaska resident. “Flames as high as the trees and it lit up the whole lake area.”

It took only a few minutes for about 50 years of history to burn to the ground. 

Hours later, workers set up a barrier around the pile of blackened wood – all that remains after decades of birthdays, Fourth of July celebrations and family picnics.

“It’s right out your backyard,” said Witte. “So the kids used to... there used to be lifeguards there when we first moved here back in the middle 2000s. There were lifeguards all summer, they sold candy and whatever, so it was a little get-together for kids.”

As for the cause, investigators say it was arson.  

“In the conditions that it is right now, it’s so far gone that it’s really hard to say exactly what was going on there,” said Chaska Fire Chief Tim Wiebe. “Again, with no heat source, no electrical, no nothing - our instinct is that we’re suspicious of that.”

Since about 1970, the pavilion was visible from busy Highway 41, a symbol of Chaska’s small town feel. 

“It was really nice, but now it’s gone,” said Witte. 

The pavilion was remodeled just two years ago. Officials with the Jonathan Association, which takes care of the pavilion, say they plan to rebuild.