OUR OPINION -- Hats off to Wellness Center partnersThe project already is greatest fundraising effort ever undertaken in Grand Forks, outside of UND. And when you look at the extensive and ambitious plans, you can believe it.
By: Tom Dennis for the Herald, Grand Forks Herald
If you doubt the impact of the Choice Wellness Center on Grand Forks — or the importance and generosity of Altru Health System’s newly announced $6.5 million contribution — browse on over to
imaginegf.org, where artists’ renderings of the center are posted and the plans are laid out in some detail.
This thing is big. Really big. You know the giant lot on the east side of South Washington Street, the one that reaches seven full blocks southward from 40th Avenue South to 47th Avenue South? Well, between the buildings, the parking lots, the skating rink, the basketball courts and the other planned facilities, the Wellness Center complex promises to stretch across the full seven blocks, taking up virtually the entire lot behind the existing strip mall.
The project already is greatest fundraising effort ever undertaken in Grand Forks, outside of UND, imaginegf.org notes. And when you look at the extensive and ambitious plans, you can believe it.
Many thanks to Altru for providing the capstone contribution, the one that just about puts the $27 million (!) fundraising campaign over the top. The campaign is so close to being completed that if you read to the end of Thursday’s story on the announcement, you learned that groundbreaking for the project will take place in as little as three weeks.
Many thanks as well to the Grand Forks Park District, the Y, UND, Choice Financial and the other partners who are spearheading the drive.
The Wellness Center project isn’t exactly under the local radar. It has been widely publicized in the Herald and other local media outlets for years.
Still, its scope is likely to take some residents by surprise. That’s because it has drawn very little criticism or controversy — a fact due almost entirely to the Park Board’s early decision to build the facility without imposing any new taxes.
What a difference that has made and promises to make in the center’s future. How big of a difference? This big: Think of the Alerus Center, which was built at taxpayers’ expense. Then think of Engelstad Arena, which was built with money from a generous donation.
The fact that Engelstad Arena doesn’t have to service or pay off its “mortgage” makes all the difference in running a successful and noncontroversial operation, as Alerus Center officials will be the first to agree.
The Park District was exceptionally savvy to recognize that difference and to resolve to build the Wellness Center at little or no cost to taxpayers. Or maybe the district just took to heart the old maxim, “Once burned, twice shy”: Clearly, Park District leaders learned their lesson from the water-park experience, an ambitious and taxpayer-paid version of which went down in flames in a 2003 citywide vote.
Regarding the Wellness Center, the district has made other good decisions along the way. Partnering with the Y was one. As part of the project and Altru’s contribution, the downtown Y also will be extensively remodeled. That will give residents on the north end of Grand Forks fast access to a modern and family-friendly facility, too.
That part of the plan is a nice touch, one that lets the Park District take advantage of Crary Real Estate’s generous donation of prime south-end land without slighting people who live on the other side of town.
All in all, it’s an inspiring and historic day in Grand Forks. Thanks again to everyone involved.
— Tom Dennis for the Herald