FARGO — Fargo's Park Board voted unanimously to go ahead with plans for a new $77 million indoor recreation and community facility in south Fargo on Tuesday night, Jan. 12.

Called the Fargo Sports Complex, it will feature a soccer field, four to six basketball and volleyball courts, an NHL-sized hockey rink, a walking track and community rooms.

Sanford Power also plans to relocate its facility from near the Scheels Arena to the new complex. With the downtown Fargo Park District offices "busting at the seams" with staff, it will be the future home of their offices, too, according to Fargo Park District Executive Director Dave Leker.

The vote gives the staff permission to continue with fundraising and work on architectural and construction documents.

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Leker said they are hoping for a private-public partnership with 60% of the money coming from private sources. So far, he said, they have raised $41 million, or about 51% of the estimated cost.

The project would be built south of 52nd Avenue and near Interstate 29, just south of the Walmart.

As for the timeline, he said, work has been delayed almost a year on the project because of COVID-19, but he said a 2016 feasibility study found a critical need for such an indoor facility.

The plan calls for architectural drawings to finish up in three to four months, followed by construction documents.

Bids would then be sought in December or January with work starting in the spring of 2022. It's estimated the project would take about a year to complete with an opening in 2023.

Parks Commissioner Jerry Rostad said he thought residents would "eat this (project) up." He said Fargo needed to "catch up" with other cities around the state that have indoor facilities, although most on a much smaller scale.

"There's something for everyone here," he said.

Commissioner Dawn Morgan raised some questions about if non-sports groups were involved in the initial planning, but Commissioner Joe Deutsch said they first needed input from sports groups to see if they would be willing to rent the facilities to make it more financially feasible.

Commission Chair Stacey Griggs also said the "city's growing population is in need of this:"

"It's not just sports, but it's for other community activities, too," she said.

Commissioner Vicki Dawson added that the community's health and wellness would certainly benefit from such an indoor facility.

Leker said estimates are that 13,000 children would use the facility each year, with 20 local sports organizations also taking advantage of the building.

The Fargo Sports Complex is expected to draw 600,000 visitors each year to 45 or more tournaments or events with a $5 million impact on the local economy, according to the Fargo Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Deutsch said he, for example, takes his son about once a month to a basketball tournament in Sioux Falls where teams from the region gather. He said the Fargo facility would be an "economic engine" for the community.

The Fargo Park District Foundation has been working on fundraising and is continuing to seek community partners. It will join in this year's Giving hearts Day on Feb. 11 with Scheels pledging to match up to $250,000 in support of the project.

In another move toward progress on the facility, the Fargo City Commission on Monday night took the first step to annex about 250 acres for the structure in the area west of Interstate 29 south of 52nd Avenue South, near Walmart.

The annexed land would also include parcels for the proposed Career Workforce Academy, residential and commercial development, drainage and a right of way for the I-29 overpass on 64th Avenue South.

The annexation will go to the City Planning Commission with a hearing at the City Commission meeting on Feb. 22.