Local coaches, school officials reiterate benefits of potential indoor sports and aquatics facilities

The need for an aquatics center has also been highlighted as UND recently announced it will demolish the Hyslop Sports Center next year

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In this Herald file photo, Red River High School soccer coach Luke Glasoe pairs up players for a scrimmage during an early season practice. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS – For local soccer teams, the nearest indoor turf facility is in Fargo.

Adding to the inconvenience of the two-hour round trip, the facility isn’t always accessible, according to Grand Forks Central boys soccer coach Lukas Schulz. So in the winter, the Central High boys practice in gym space at the school – on basketball courts.

“It’s the best we can do, but it definitely doesn’t simulate turf,” he said.

It’s why Schulz believes Grand Forks needs to make a move toward building an indoor multi-use sports facility. While no official path forward has yet surfaced, the proposal is in discussion among city leaders and others.

“When you’re expecting kids to play at a varsity level, there’s not many sports where they’re literally not able to practice in the off season,” Schulz said. “In hockey you have ice (arenas) and with basketball there are courts everywhere. In order to be an elite player you need to be doing more than playing in a gym in the off season.”


The need, according to proponents, has intensified after UND announced plans to demolish Hyslop Sports Center next year. The north end of the Hyslop was built in 1951; the south end, which houses an Olympic-sized swimming pool along with other athletic facilities, was completed in 1984. In a previous interview with the Herald , David Dodds, director of communications at UND, said the facility is “beyond its useful lifespan.”

The idea of an indoor multi-use sports facility and aquatics center has been discussed for years. The idea is to host competitive games or practices with amenities such as a turf field for soccer, football, lacrosse, baseball, softball and similar sports; a running track; courts for basketball, volleyball, pickleball and similar sports. The indoor aquatics center would have a competitive swimming and diving pool, lap pool and other features.

Last year the Grand Forks Park District hired BerryDunn/GreenPlay to complete a feasibility study on the proposed facilities. Several sites were considered for both, including Choice Health and Fitness and the UND campus for the aquatics center. Choice Health and Fitness also was considered as a site for the sports facility, as well as the Columbia Mall and near the Alerus Center.

While the concept of having one facility combining the sports and aquatics center was considered, separating them into two different facilities was determined to be the best option through the feasibility study.

In a joint meeting between Park Board Commission and City Council members in January, the cost of the facilities was presented. The preferred location of the indoor sports facility is at the Alerus Center site, and the price depends on whether a golf vendor would be included. If the golf vendor is included the total project cost is estimated at just over $101 million. If that vendor isn’t included, the total cost is estimated at $103 million.

The preferred location for the aquatics center is at the Choice Health and Fitness site, and is estimated to cost $37 million.

The next steps are still being determined. George Hellyer, executive director of the Grand Forks Park District, said the operational and maintenance costs are being calculated. Staff will circle back with user groups in the community to gather input on preferred rates for the facilities.

An additional joint meeting between the Park Board Commission and City Council is planned for the near future.


Funding for the facilities will be an ongoing discussion. Of the feedback received from surveys distributed last year, more than half of the respondents said they would probably or definitely support an extension to the existing 0.75% Alerus Center sales tax by another 30 years in order to support the facilities. That sales tax already brings in an estimated $10 million in collections to go toward debt services and capital needs at the Alerus Center.

Additional funding options for the facilities include private fundraising, bonding and other revenue funding.

Hellyer said it will be up to residents if they want the facilities.

“Ultimately, it will come down to the voters,” he said.

The conversation has amplified in recent weeks, however, after community members have voiced their disappointment on the decision to close UND's Hyslop Sports Center.

In addition to the city not having enough competitive swimming pools, swim lessons are going to be impacted, said Brent Newman, head coach of the KnightRider boys swimming and diving team, which is made up of students from Red River and Central high schools.

“When the Hyslop closes, the number of kids they put through their swimming lesson program, there’s no place in Grand Forks that’s going to be able to absorb that number of kids,” Newman said.

Newman and Bryan Walls, the coach of the girls swim teams and the RRV Wahoos, a youth team sponsored by USA Swimming, said swim lessons are important, especially considering the number of lakes in the region.


“I don't think people are going to realize until we're in that situation that there's going to be no space,” Walls said. “The wait for swim lessons will be astronomical.”

At Choice Health and Fitness, the wait for swim lessons – including private swim lessons – is already lengthy. Lisa Rollefstad, the sports and recreation manager, said it’s due to limited space at the Choice Health and Fitness pool, but also to staffing shortages.

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A view of the pool at the Hyslop Sports Center Wednesday, March 22, 2023.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

The swimming pool at Central High School is not operational and has been that way for the past two years due to moisture that is causing brick displacement in the interior and exterior walls.

Brandon Baumbach, business manager with Grand Forks Public Schools, said the School Board is assessing the costs of short- and long-term repairs on the facility. Although plans may depend on whether a community aquatics center moves forward, Baumbach said having a pool for the swim teams is a top priority.

“I think the top priority spoken from the (school) board is to make sure our student athletes have access to water,” Baumbach said. “And so if we need to make a decision without all the information on the aquatics (center) then we need to be prepared to do that.”

Even if the aquatics center is built, there would still be a gap between the Hyslop closing and the construction on the new facility being completed. Some alternative facilities the school district has considered include the YMCA and Grand Forks Air Force Base, but both don’t have competitive pools.

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In this Herald file photo, the Red River Valley Swim team practices. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald
Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald

Overall, school officials are interested in utilizing both the turf facility and aquatics center for the various sports offered to students. Michael Biermaier, activities director for Grand Forks Public Schools, said the school district has had conversations with the park district regarding the facilities. In order to use the facilities, the school district will need to be an invested partner.

Along with the need for an aquatics center in the city, Biermaier said the indoor multi-use sports facility would be beneficial for the several sports that are impacted by weather.


“You look at a winter like this – we are really struggling to find places for both soccer teams. You have got to remember with two high schools, everything is times two. So you have baseball teams, softball teams, the soccer teams, plus we have 300 kids out for track,” Biermaier said. “We need an indoor facility for them because right now we’re not even going to get outside to be able to practice until mid to late April.”

Biermaier said practices for those teams are abbreviated and sometimes have to be skipped due to not having enough room in the school gyms and at UND’s High Performance Center.

Having the facilities would put Grand Forks on par with other cities in the state that already have similar facilities.

Matt Berglund, head coach of varsity girls wrestling, said the facilities won’t directly impact the program he coaches, but it’s a need for the sports being offered.

“I’ve coached in this community for 25 years and we definitely need an upgrade in those type of things in our school district,” Berglund said. “When we compare ourselves to the other big districts in the state, which would be Minot, Bismarck and then Fargo/West Fargo, you travel to those places and you see these beautiful new facilities, turf facilities, pool facilities. For Grand Forks, we have great hockey facilities, the best in the state for young people, but we have such a dropoff when it comes to other sports.”

Biermaier said the facilities wouldn’t only benefit the school district, but would benefit the entire community in terms of quality of life and workforce retention.

Having the facilities could mean more home meets and state tournaments would be held in Grand Forks, which in turn would boost the economic contribution being made from those sports, said Newman, the swim coach.

“If we can build something that’s equitable or even higher class than those other cities you can get back that opportunity to host something like a state meet, which is great for the kids,” Newman said.

Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 701-780-1267 or

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
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