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$7.8 million rec center planned for 'heart' of West Fargo

The West Fargo Park Board will award bids today for a roughly $7.8 million recreational facility and park that will house new park district offices, activity spaces and an indoor track south of Interstate 94.

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The West Fargo Park Board will award bids today for a roughly $7.8 million recreational facility and park that will house new park district offices, activity spaces and an indoor track south of Interstate 94.

Multiple bids on the two-story, 44,000 square-foot building and park project at 501 26th Ave. E. came in under the estimated $8.5 million project cost.

The facility that sits on 10 acres southwest of Costco will feature two indoor high school regulation basketball courts with resilient athletic flooring, a youth gym, batting cages, four volleyball courts, meeting and event space, a large lobby for gatherings, an outdoor patio space, a concession stand, a 1/10 mile track with a track quality surface, retractable bleachers, restrooms and showers. The park district administrative office will move to the new facility when it opens in 2016.

Park District Executive Director Barb Erbstoesser said research done in partnership with other metro cities found there is a need for a sports facility in that area of the city.

"That area was identified as a place for some type of sports center," she said. "We're really feeling like we're in the heart of West Fargo there."
The project is being funded through recreation funds, general fund dollars, cash from new development and program fees. It will not require an increase in property taxes and will be financed over 25 years through a building authority process, Erbstoesser said.

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As West Fargo's population grows, indoor space is needed for activities and park district sports, she said.

"People really want activities year-round," Erbstoesser said. " People don't want to get slowed down by a 20-below day or rain anymore. They want their routine to continue day in and day out."

She said the Veterans Memorial Arena, which houses ice hockey programs and other park district events, will still be used. When ice is used at the arena, it does not allow room for other park programs, she said.

"It's very busy with hockey in the arena," she said. "The vets arena is still a very vital piece to the park district, but the new space is going to give us potential to add that much more to the district."

Phase one also includes landscaping the entire park, expanding bike path connections, a shelter, tables, benches, open green space for a variety of activities and 200 parking spaces.

"We plan to coordinate with Freedom Elementary School for overflow parking for larger events on non-school days," she said.

Erbstoesser said the park district staff has outgrown its current headquarters at North Elmwood Park. Moving to the new facility at Rustad will give the district room for additional staff and the location will be more centrally located.

She said the North Elmwood Park 2,250-square-foot building will be used as an activity center after staff moves.

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After phase one is complete, there will still be enough space on the property to add an indoor or outdoor pool, Erbstoesser said.

"We really feel like we're building this building for now and into the future," Erbstoesser said. "There is potential for building some kind of recreational water on the side of it. We don't know at this point if it will be indoor or outdoor. We've positioned ourselves to be able to add on."

Mayor Rich Mattern said residents have been asking for something like the recreational facility and park for some time.

"I wish an indoor pool was in that equation, just because the high school needs a new pool," Mattern said. "Other than that, the Park Board has come up with a good plan. Young families have their needs for parks and healthy lifestyle, and this will fit that."

Rustad Park is named for lifelong residents John and Martha Rustad and family, who owned and farmed the property. It is expected to open in June 2016.

There will be no membership or joining fee to enter the facility and use of the track will be free and open to the public during building hours. Erbstoesser said an increase in the number of park programs and events will be scheduled at the facility.

The West Fargo Park Board will award bids for Rustad Park at its regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.

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