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Sanford Center: Blimp to take flight

Tom Quinn, building engineer for the Sanford Center, launches the center’s new promotional blimp Tuesday morning. The blimp is scheduled to make its first appearances this weekend during Nebraska-Omaha hockey games. Monte Draper|Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – The Sanford Center will soon have its own – albeit smaller – version of the iconic Goodyear Blimp drifting high above its sporting events.

Bemidji State University hockey fans will see a lightweight promotional blimp flying over their seats during hockey games. The Sanford Center received the blimp last week, and officials hope to have it ready for a test run at this weekend’s slate of games against Nebraska-Omaha.

The blimp was purchased by General Electric for about $6,000 including supplies, said Cyrus Pansch, director of sales and marketing at the Sanford Center.

“It’s very exciting to have such a large sponsorship by General Electric,” Pansch said.

The blimp, featuring the BSU logo on the front along with the GE and Viking Electric emblems, will drop pamphlets and coupons on the crowd, Pansch said.

The blimp is powered by several fans, which are directed by a controller similar to an RC car. Sanford Center employees are still getting used to flying the 11-foot-long craft with the air currents near the ceiling.

“We’re still in training,” said Tom Quinn, the facility’s building engineer.

Pansch said Darrell Johnson of D-L Electric helped facilitate the deal with GE and Viking Electric, which sells GE products.

While he hopes to have the blimp available during games this weekend, Pansch said the official first flight will be on Feb. 1, when GE and Viking Electric are the game’s sponsor.

“I think it’s one of the most fun things we’ve done in terms of marketing and promotions,” said Darren White, an account manager with Viking Electric.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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