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Our view: Fast-track UND banners downtown

Herald editorial board

If a visitor wanders downtown in Grand Forks, is it apparent the city is proud to be home to a flagship university?

Sure, there are banners that hang from light poles throughout the downtown area, but they're too small and, in our minds, don't entirely portray the relationship the community has with the University of North Dakota.

That's why we were glad to hear UND President Mark Kennedy on Tuesday repeat his goal of splashing more green in the downtown area to better portray the "town-gown" atmosphere he covets in Grand Forks.

This is just a miniscule part of Kennedy's big strategy for UND. Yet to us it's an easy project that will have impact. As he explained his master plan to business leaders Tuesday, he spent just a minute suggesting new banners downtown. Later, he explained it more to the Herald, saying "I think the energy and excitement between the university and the city is very strong."

So let's do it. Let's get new and bigger banners hanging from the light poles in downtown Grand Forks. Let them be bold and green, and let them loudly proclaim this is a supportive and dedicated university town. After new banners are placed downtown, it also would be wise to repurpose the small banners that now exist to different streets outside of the downtown area.

Actually, since it's in Kennedy's strategy plan and because the city agrees, we figure new banners will happen without this editorial. But here's a twist: The city and UND should work to get it done before the university's combined homecoming/Potato Bowl weekend in September. Those two celebratory events this fall will be held at the same time, culminating with the Sept. 22 UND football game against Idaho State.

That day, downtown will be packed. Thousands will turn out for the parade, which due to the combined events could be — should be — larger than ever.

Can the banners be ready in time? It's probably a stretch, but the university, the city and the community should strive for it nonetheless.

Kennedy said he worked hard to get new banners along the streets at UND placed before graduation. They're in place now, but he wasn't able to beat his self-imposed deadline.

Evidently, it's a more complex process than simply buying banners and hanging them. For example, engineers must decide how much additional weight a light pole can take in a windy city like Grand Forks. And cost still hasn't been determined.

City Administrator Todd Feland said the bottom line is "the city is on board with interconnecting downtown with campus." He said a meeting with UND already is in the works.

Tuesday, after the Herald asked, Kennedy said he'll "press (his) team on it."

"The good news is that we already have done research with engineers to see what the light poles can take," he said. "We already have the design matrix, and in my mind, it's now about getting the themes. It would be nice to make a push for it."

We agree. And if it can be done by homecoming/Potato Bowl week, it really would be special.