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Published June 28, 2010, 12:00 AM

Athletic center planned in Fargo

Performance to be new Sanford facility's focus
Sanford Health-MeritCare plans to build a new center in southwest Fargo dedicated to helping athletes boost their performance.

By: Patrick Springer, INFORUM

Sanford Health-MeritCare plans to build a new center in southwest Fargo dedicated to helping athletes boost their performance.

The center will be modeled on one built two years ago in Sioux Falls, S.D., that cost $2.5 million but will be tailored to athletic needs in the Fargo-Moorhead market, a Sanford Health-MeritCare executive said.

“We’ll customize that facility to what the needs are,” said Kevin Lampe, a Sanford Health-MeritCare vice president who oversees its orthopedic and sports medicine programs.

In a related matter, Sanford expects soon to have an agreement to provide sports medicine services for the North Dakota State University Bison, perhaps as early as this week.

Gene Taylor, NDSU’s athletic director, was traveling Friday afternoon and couldn’t be reached for comment on the talks or what the planned performance enhancement center could mean for Bison athletics.

Innovis Health has long provided team doctors and trainers for the Bison but recently announced that it would not provide those services after Wednesday in light of discussions taking place between NDSU and Sanford-MeritCare.

Through a spokeswoman, Innovis declined comment Friday on Sanford-MeritCare’s latest plans to expand its sports medicine and orthopedics services.

Demand for sports medicine services is strong in the area, given the multitude of teams fielded by NDSU, Minnesota State University Moorhead, Concordia College, and many high school programs, in addition to the area’s many serious amateur athletes, Lampe said.

The performance center will work with athletes of all skill levels. Programs will include speed strength, weight training and agility training.

Sanford Health-MeritCare is striving to develop an orthopedics and sports medicine program with a reputation that will attract athletes from around the country, he said.

Sanford’s National Institute for Athletic Health & Performance opened two years ago. It’s directed by Dr. Michael Bergeron, who is known for his research in exercise, heat stress and athletic health.

Research, in fact, will be an important part of the work done by the performance center, with athletes sometimes serving as research subjects.

Sanford Health-MeritCare – which will drop MeritCare from its name in July – plans to have a medical residency program in orthopedics in 10 or 12 years to help attract physicians specializing in orthopedics and sports medicine, Lampe said.

“You need to build the research base” to attract top specialists in the fields of orthopedics and sports medicine, he said.

Discussions between Sanford Health-MeritCare and Orthopaedic Associates, which are exploring a possible partnership, continue, Lampe said.

The performance athletics center is separate from the recently announced $12 million fitness and wellness center Sanford will build in partnership with the YMCA but also will be located at the Urban Plains development in southwest Fargo.

The new performance center got final approval last week from the health system’s local trustees and will proceed in the new fiscal year, which starts Thursday.

The exterior of the building likely will resemble the “power bubble” look of its Sioux Falls counterpart, a 21,000-square-foot facility near the football stadium for the University of Sioux Falls, although no designs have been drawn, Lampe said.

Details are being worked out in consultation with local athletic officials, but the facility’s activity areas will include artificial football turf, track lanes and a wooden basketball court floor for athletes to train on.

“I’d anticipate there’d be some hockey support we’d put in that facility,” Lampe said, noting the popularity of hockey in the Fargo-Moorhead region.

Sanford Health-MeritCare is not involved in talks for a possible indoor aquatics center or other community athletic facility, such as a soccer complex, but is interested in exploring partnerships, Lampe said.

“Our history is one of working with community groups,” he said, noting as an example that Sanford donated land in Sioux Falls for a junior football facility now under construction and has a sponsorship supporting youth soccer in that city.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522