Overheard once at a UND football game at the Alerus Center: “Boy, I sure miss games at Memorial Stadium.”
Of course UND fans miss games at Memorial Stadium, the site of so many incredible UND sports memories. Most likely, though, the games they most fondly remember were those played on moderate September days. Nostalgia is a funny thing; it clouds memories and dulls the sharp edges of past reality.
Memorial Stadium, home of UND football for decades, was no Alerus Center. Its bleacher seats could be cold and uncomfortable. It offered no protection from late autumn’s frigid fury. Adult fans couldn’t enjoy an alcoholic beverage there – well, at least legally.
The Alerus Center, meanwhile, offers constant 70-degree comfort, convenience and plenty of space for tailgating. It’s a first-rate ballpark.
Yet we expect nostalgia to flow this year as what remains of Memorial Stadium will be torn down to make way for a new structure that will house modern offices and apartments.
The project is one of four development projects that recently received final approval for tax increment financing, a process that allows developers to pay the current property tax rate for a predetermined number of years before taking on a newer, much higher, tax rate. It’s commonly called a tax break and, we suppose, it technically is. However, without TIF approval, developers might not move forward on projects and the community would be without the opportunity to collect the higher taxes later. In the meantime, the current properties would continue to erode, decreasing in value over the years.
This week, the Grand Forks City Council gave final approval to the Memorial Stadium project, as well as development efforts that will take place at the Townhouse Hotel near downtown; Lyon’s Auto Supply, across from City Hall; and the St. John’s Block apartment building, near Town Square. In all, the projects total more than $108 million in construction work.
They needed approval not only from the City Council, but also from the Grand Forks County Commission and the Grand Forks School Board. All three groups gave the OK to move forward. It came after exceptional city leadership and great community foresight.
In addition, the Memorial Stadium project needed approval from the State Board of Higher Education, which granted the request last year.
Of the four projects, it’s likely that only the Memorial Stadium development will prompt any sort of sadness in the community. Thousands of people recall so many memories at the stadium, home to UND football from 1927 to 2000.
But there’s good news. The field will remain, since that’s where UND currently holds its outdoor practices. And better yet, UND athletics staff – including the football staff – will get new office facilities. At present, UND’s Memorial Stadium offices and meeting rooms are dank, dismal and an embarrassment when compared to other universities in the region.
Memorial Stadium, which hasn’t been used as a playing field for two decades, deserves to be remembered, but not to block the path of progress. Its rightful place in Grand Forks lore remains forever, whether or not the old stadium bleachers still stand.