FARGO — The Fargo Park District is moving ahead on a partnership with Sanford Health to build a multi-million dollar sports complex on the south end of the city.

The park board approved a development agreement during its meeting on Monday, July 15, allowing the entities to secure land and begin a fundraising campaign.

Jerry Rostad, elected as the new board president at the meeting, called it “probably the biggest project we’ll take on … in the history of the Fargo Park District.”

The park district-operated complex is expected to include indoor turf, hardwood courts for basketball and volleyball, several sheets of ice and an indoor walking track.

A conceptual draft for the soccer portion of a proposed Fargo sports complex — a partnership between the Fargo Park District and Sanford Health.  Final design won't be decided until a capital campaign is complete. Special to The Forum
A conceptual draft for the soccer portion of a proposed Fargo sports complex — a partnership between the Fargo Park District and Sanford Health. Final design won't be decided until a capital campaign is complete. Special to The Forum

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Dave Leker, the park district’s interim executive director, said those features were chosen based on a survey done several years ago of potential user groups.

“It’s going to be for the whole community, kids and adults alike,” Leker said.

The park board approved the development agreement on a 4-to-1 vote. Commissioner Rusty Papachek voted no, expressing support for the project but concern over how it will be financed.

"It's just, in my mind, a bit premature to commit to it," Papachek told The Forum. The park district has set aside nearly $20 million for the project, which has been in the works for several years, he said.

He's concerned financing will come up short, and there's no contingency in place for additional time to raise more money.

"By executing this contract, we're on the hook for this project. We're putting the taxpayers potentially at risk," Papachek said.

The sports complex is planned to be built on a 100-acre plot west of Interstate 29, between the Walmart store on 52nd Avenue South and 64th Avenue South. Rostad said there could also be outdoor space for baseball, soccer and football.

A conceptual draft for the volleyball portion of a proposed Fargo sports complex — a partnership between the Fargo Park District and Sanford Health.  Final design won't be decided until a capital campaign is complete. Special to The Forum
A conceptual draft for the volleyball portion of a proposed Fargo sports complex — a partnership between the Fargo Park District and Sanford Health. Final design won't be decided until a capital campaign is complete. Special to The Forum

The agreement includes a land swap in which Sanford Health will buy the undeveloped land, and upon acquiring it, trade part of it for other undeveloped property along 45th Street and 64th Avenue, currently owned by the Fargo Park District, Leker said.

Sanford’s donation to the project is $15 million, according to Nate White, chief operations officer and president of Sanford Fargo.

“We’re excited to become a part of this wonderful investment for our youth and the health of our community,” White said, in a statement to The Forum.

He also said the complex would be “a regional destination, hosting hundreds of events per year and more than 600,000 visitors annually,” and that the project could provide a projected direct spending impact of $5 million each year.

Sanford is considered a founding partner of the complex with the park district, and a major sponsor. Other sponsors are expected to be announced later.

Rostad said the city of Fargo will need to complete infrastructure work in advance, including water and sewer. It’s possible construction could start in the fall of 2020 or spring of 2021, but will depend on fundraising, he said.

If necessary, it could be built in phases, starting with some indoor turf, one sheet of ice and four basketball courts. There’s room in the project, he said, for two sheets of ice and 12 courts.

The next steps are working with an architect on design drawings and beginning a capital campaign through the newly-established Fargo Park District Foundation.

Leker said other cities in North Dakota either have facilities like this or are considering one.

“It’s coming to every community near you,” he said.