GF Park Board names Harris development directorFundraising continues for Choice Health & Fitness
The Grand Forks Park District isn’t resting on its money-raising laurels. Less than a year after completing its most lucrative campaign for Choice Health & Fitness, the park district is at it again. Only, this time, it has a professional arm-twister at the helm.
By: Ryan Bakken, Grand Forks Herald
The Grand Forks Park District isn’t resting on its money-raising laurels.
Less than a year after completing its most lucrative campaign for Choice Health & Fitness, the park district is at it again. Only, this time, it has a professional arm-twister at the helm.
Gary Harris Jr. has been hired as the district foundation’s development officer, a newly created position. Harris started Aug. 1 after a career as a fund-raising consultant for health care facility projects. His last employer was based in Hartsville, S.C.
His initial projects are raising money to buy equipment for Choice Health & Fitness and to build a hockey arena to be located near the fitness center.
The fitness center is under construction, with an anticipated opening of Oct. 1, 2012. The combined campaign for the fitness center and the remodeling of the YMCA raised $28 million in donations, partnerships and leases. The biggest contributors were Choice Financial and Altru, which received major naming rights for the site.
That campaign was led by YMCA top executive Deb Thompson and Cam Tweten, Center Court Fitness manager. Despite their success, neither is a trained fund-raiser such as Harris, who will receive an annual salary of $65,000.
“Gary’s job description has two broad functions — landing sponsorships and pure philanthropy in managing capital campaigns,” said John Staley, park district director. “The fact that we raised $28 million was a big propellant to hiring someone because it showed that it will work here.”
Attraction for youth tournaments
Harris’ first initiatives are to raise $750,000 for Choice Health & Fitness equipment and to raise money for a two-rink hockey arena.
The Grand Forks Blue Line Club has pledged $2.5 million toward the arena, which would be used to hold youth hockey tournaments. The hockey boosters’ money is a matching grant, meaning another $2.5 million would have to be raised before accessing the club’s money.
“I have a lot of experience and expertise in running capital campaigns,” Harris said. “The plan is to get the hockey fund raising done in a year.”
The goal is to build a $7 million arena with two ice sheets, with each having seating for 500.
“The idea is to attract more youth tournaments to town,” said Tim Riopelle, Blue Line Club president. “We have maybe 10 tournaments a year here where we could have 24 to 30. The money generated locally from these youth tournaments is astronomical.”
The Blue Line Club, which receives its revenues from charitable gaming, has an arena that carries its name and has contributed to upgrades of the Gambucci, Purpur and Eagles arenas.
“Counting what we’ve given to baseball, we’ve probably contributed about $10 million to youth sports in Grand Forks,” Riopelle said.
It’s a sign of the times. Contributions by private companies and community organizations are a common way to fund capital projects.
“A foundation gives you stable financial footing,” park board president Jim Bollman said. “People want to be involved with foundations. And we know there is money available in this area.”
Harris said “visions down the road” include a sports bubble and a 9-hole addition to King’s Walk golf course.
Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send email to email@example.com.