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Naming rights come with hefty price tag

The price of naming rights in Grand Forks has gone up. So has the number of naming options. Alerus Financial paid $3 million for changing the name of the Grand Forks events center from the Aurora to the Alerus Center in 2000. The proposed Grand F...

Wellness center

The price of naming rights in Grand Forks has gone up. So has the number of naming options.

Alerus Financial paid $3 million for changing the name of the Grand Forks events center from the Aurora to the Alerus Center in 2000.

The proposed Grand Forks wellness center seeks $5 million for the same privilege. And the volunteer fundraising committee isn't stopping at the structure. It offers other naming rights possibilities inside the building that add up to an additional $5.2 million.

For instance, the listed price for sponsoring the acceleration center or the pool complex is $1 million. In addition to the $1 million for the pool complex are $250,000 each for the lap pool and zero-depth pool and $50,000 for the therapy pool.

The basketball and tennis complexes each would go for $500,000, while each tennis court and basketball court would carry its own name for a $50,000 donation.


The prices are "negotiable," said Cam Tweten, spokesman for the Forks Area Health and Wellness Committee that is seeking donations for a new wellness center owned by the Park District. "They're a starting point."

If all naming options were sold at the listed price, $10.2 million would be secured for the $27 million project. Tweten, the manager of the Center Court Fitness facility that would be replaced by the wellness center, said the volunteer committee members don't anticipate takers for every option.

No individual, organization or business has signed an agreement yet, but verbal commitments have been made and there's wide interest, Tweten said. In May, committee co-chairman Rob Vollrath said a $500,000 commitment had been landed.

While Alerus' $3 million secured the name for 20 years, meaning the cost is $150,000 per year, the time span for the wellness center rights hasn't been determined yet.

"This is part of the way to build a facility without tax dollars," Tweten said. "They're all part of the puzzle.

"How much we raise will determine how big it is."

Seeking $27 million

The $27 million price tag has three parts -- $23 million for a new facility, $2 million for improvements to the Y Family Center and $2 million for scholarships for needy children and families.


"We want to provide a good facility, but also make it affordable for everyone if we possibly can," Tweten said.

The Park District and YMCA are forging an agreement where membership in either club brings privileges in both.

Gifts would be doled out proportionately among the three areas.

The goal is to raise all $27 million privately, through a combination of donations, grants and partnerships. Hopes are to raise about 80 percent of that total in the so-called "silent phase," when major contributions are sought privately. Following would be a public campaign.

"If we have 80 percent covered, a lot of the questions that people might ask about finances would be answered," Tweten said.

Regarding partnerships, agreements to rent space have been discussed with Altru Health System and the Human Nutrition Lab.

There is no timetable other than "our goal is to start building in the summer," Tweten said. "The next few weeks will be key for us because we have opportunities to hopefully come up with major donations toward the project."

Tweten said the alliance with the YMCA has helped fundraising. Rather than worry YMCA supporters that a new fitness center would put the Y out of business, the partnership will assist in upgrading it.


A new wellness center would be built south of SuperTarget on land owned by the park district.

Have money, will build

If $27 million is raised privately, Park Board members say they have an easy decision.

"Although some people don't think we should be in this business, if the entire $27 million is raised, I'd be in favor of doing it," board President Bill Hutchison said. "That kind of money would be a strong affirmation of community support."

If efforts come up short, options would include: 1. scaling back the project; 2. a city-wide bond issue vote; 3. paying the shortfall with operating revenues; or 4. a combination of the three.

Hutchison has advocated a bond issue vote if all the money isn't raised. But he softened his stance a bit last week, suggesting $25 million would be enough to gain his support without a public vote.

"It has to be 95 percent or more for me," he said. "Otherwise, we'd need to see if citizens would be willing to take the risk because it's their risk."

Since Center Court has been losing about $100,000 annually in recent years, Hutchison said some operating losses can be absorbed.


"But if we're trying to live with a potential operating shortfall, plus paying principal and interest, we're in trouble," he said. "That would put other park district programs at risk."

Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send e-mail to rbakken@gfherald.com .

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