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University of Minnesota-Crookston is not selling athletic facility used by Crookston Public Schools

Dave Kuehn, interim superintendent at Crookston Public Schools, says community members often ask why the school district does not buy UMC’s athletic facility instead of pursuing a new one.

Crookston Field Rendering 2.jpg
An artist's rendering shows what the multi-use facility that Crookston Public Schools is holding a referendum for in August could look like.
Contributed / Zerr Berg Architects
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CROOKSTON – The University of Minnesota Crookston is not interested in selling the Ed Widseth Field, which Crookston Public Schools currently uses as its home track and field, to the school district.

With a second vote on a proposed outdoor, multi-use athletic complex happening in February, Dave Kuehn, interim superintendent at Crookston Public Schools, says community members often ask why the school district does not buy UMC’s athletic facility instead of pursuing a new one.

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On Jan. 10, NDDPI, and the North Dakota Governor’s Office, announced they partnered with Western Governors University and had awarded the ESSER dollars to a college outside of North Dakota.

UMC Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause answered this question in her monthly community letter at the request of the school district.

“Based on the guiding principles of the University’s policies for owning and selling real estate, as well as the infrastructure that has been built on, beneath and through the property, the land has both short-term and long-term strategic value to the Crookston campus and the University of Minnesota System,” wrote Holz-Clause.

In February, Crookston Public Schools will ask voters to approve a $4.9 million referendum for an athletic facility. The first referendum, for $3.9 million, narrowly failed in August. In October, the school board officially decided to pursue a second referendum for the facility at $4.9 million to adjust for higher construction costs than the first time around.

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In the letter, Holz-Clause said the university had explored other options to provide the school district with affordable, long-term use of the property, including a 20-year lease with renewable leases up to 50 years. The university also offered to remove the existing track at no cost to the school district to make room for a new one.

Kuehn said the school district did not pursue these options because it has determined the best use of taxpayer money is to own a facility, which will open the door for use of state long-term facility maintenance dollars in the future.

“Ultimately it doesn’t matter if it’s leased or rented — if we don’t own it, we can’t upgrade it with the dollars that we’re given by the state,” he said.

Building a new facility next to the high school will also allow the school to use the facility during the day, which has not been feasible with the distance of the athletic complex from the school. Building a turf field will also provide a more durable field than the grass at Ed Widseth field, said Kuehn.

“People hopefully will understand the amount of use that we would have at our facility because we own it, we can upgrade it and maintain it,” he said.

But, Holz-Clause says, the university is still open to continued collaboration with the school district.

“We have practical reasons to keep the property,” she wrote. “We remain willing and open to any of the alternatives previously suggested, or to new proposals the district might have, that would allow each organization to achieve its respective goals.”

Crookston Public Schools is holding a series of informational meetings ahead of the Feb. 14 vote, similar to the meetings held before the initial vote. Those meetings will be held in the Crookston High School Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 13, Jan. 19 and Feb. 7.

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Kuehn says the district will also begin outreach to communities surrounding Crookston that are still part of the school district in January.

Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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