'A great loss for Grand Forks': UND community expresses disappointment with impending closure of the Hyslop
Opponents believe closure will leave Grand Forks with lack of adequate swimming and diving facility
GRAND FORKS – Following an announcement that UND will demolish its Hyslop Sports Center by the summer of 2024, some students and faculty are displeased with the university’s decision.
Faith Wahl, UND student body president, says she has heard a “considerable amount of concern” from students regarding Hyslop’s planned closure. She said Hyslop is used not only by students on the club swimming team and triathlon club, but also by faculty and staff as a place of recreation.
“Students are concerned about where to find an accessible and affordable place to swim, and the closure of Hyslop will limit this significantly,” Wahl said. “It’s my hope that the student voice can continue to be part of the conversations going forward.”
Jim Whitehead, who retired as a professor of kinesiology at UND in 2017, said the decision to demolish all of Hyslop — as opposed to just its south wing — took him by surprise. He said a consultancy firm arrived on campus in 2017 and held a meeting about the topic, without input from faculty members.
“The original plan was to demolish only the south end of Hyslop to build a new STEM building,” said Whitehead. “That seems to have changed. I asked in the meeting why nobody knew about this ahead of time, and they said the matter was open to public comment. Nobody had been told it was open to public comment — it seemed like a fait accompli to me.”
Whitehead also says he is unsure of how UND’s department of kinesiology will cope with the loss of Hyslop.
“I suspect the department of kinesiology will be history within 10 years,” Whitehead said. “I’ve been told they’re searching for a new home for the department now, but I don’t know where they’re going to put it, or hold their practical classes. Where will they hold their aquatics classes?”
David Dodds, director of communications at UND, said Hyslop is “beyond its useful lifespan,” and that the building is unsafe to be used in its current capacity. Regarding how its closure will affect tenants from the community, he said the university is working with them to address their concerns.
“We have had lots of fruitful and honest discussions with community partners,” said Dodds. “We’ve met with officials from the city, Grand Forks Public Schools and the Grand Forks Parks District, and have vowed to keep the pool operational until 2024.”
Hyslop, which houses athletic administration offices, academic support services for UND’s athletes and its department of kinesiology, contains two separate wings — its north end, constructed in 1951, and the south, which houses an Olympic-sized swimming pool and other athletic facilities.
The south end — completed in May of 1984 — was added at the behest of students and administrators to accommodate a growing student population. According to an article from UND News in April 1984, “the structure is designed to meet the physical education and recreation needs of a UND student body that has exploded from 2,369 when the original field house was constructed, to more than 11,000 today.”
According to the same article, construction costs for the south addition totaled $6,474,800. Of the total, $6 million in capital construction funds were transferred from the state’s treasury to its capital construction fund for the project, with the remaining balance funded privately.
Whitehead said Hyslop is too valuable to demolish, and doing so would deprive the community of an aquatics facility.
“Demolishing the building — which I think is far too young and valuable — not only will leave UND without a facility, but also leave the community of Grand Forks devoid of any decent aquatic facility,” Whitehead said. “At the time the Olympic-sized pool was built, it was considered the best aquatics facility between Winnipeg and Minneapolis.”
Mike Pieper, associate vice president of facilities at UND, said the decision to demolish both the north and south ends of Hyslop was made in part due to the lack of tenants occupying the north end.
“We had asked Army ROTC leadership if they would consider moving into the north side of Hyslop, but they felt strongly about staying in the armory,” Pieper said. “That was the only reason it was being held, so when they declined that offer, it didn’t make much sense to hold on to the north end.”
Kasey Young, sport and exercise credit classes coordinator at UND, said Hyslop has provided a quality venue for the region’s swimmers, and will be sorely missed.
“It will be a great loss for Grand Forks,” Young said. “Hyslop has been an anchor of the swimming community. It’s been a huge provider of swimming lessons, and has hosted several high-profile meets.”
Young said Hyslop was also home to many memorable years of UND’s swimming and diving program, which was cut at the end of the 2017 season. It also hosted the NCAA Division II National Championship meet on three occasions — 1992, 1996 and 2003.
There was a span where the men’s swimming and diving team won 20 of 24 conference championships,” said Young. “Those teams even had individuals who competed in Olympic trial qualifiers.”
Hyslop is also home to the RRV Wahoos, a youth team sponsored by USA Swimming, the sport's national governing body.
According to Young, both the local YMCA and Choice Health and Fitness have pools, but they are not Olympic-sized, and not deep enough to host diving competitions.
In response to concerns about the future of UND’s kinesiology department, Cindy Juntunen, dean of UND’s College of Education and Human Development, which oversees the department of kinesiology, said the university is actively searching for a home for the department.
Juntunen said the department will be housed in a “transitional” space — with the two most likely locations being Starcher or Gillette Halls — while UND searches for a permanent venue. According to Juntunen, the department may be in a transitional location for as many as five years.
Juntunen said finding venues for kinesiology’s activity courses — such as indoor sports — will be more challenging.
“Some of our activities courses require a lot of space, like badminton courts for instance,” said Juntunen. “We are still evaluating locations that are safe, and provide ample room for our students to enjoy these activities.”