BEMIDJI -- The largest, most comprehensive cancer center in northern Minnesota.

That’s how Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota President Bryan Nermoe described the new Joe Lueken Cancer Center in Bemidji on Tuesday. Nermoe spoke during an open house held to introduce the community to the center, designed to care for patients battling cancer.

“It really is an honor to stand here today. I stood on a stage just like this at the Sanford Center in 2015 and we talked about a dream and a vision,” Nermoe said. “Cancer has a profound impact on not only those who suffer from the disease, but also on their families. And, while we’re racing toward cures and new treatments, right here now, we can address that impact.”

The new $12 million, 20,500 square-foot center is connected to the Sanford Bemidji Main Clinic and brings all of the provider’s cancer related services to one location. The facility includes 20 infusion suites, 15 exam rooms, an on-site infusion pharmacy and lab services.

Additionally, the center brings together services for radiation, medical oncology, palliative care, patient navigation, financial counseling, social services and survivorship. The building also has features such as the outdoor patio and an indoor fireplace lounge where patients can also receive infusion treatments.

“Our technology is a lot newer. We have monitors now, so our patients can go outside on our patio and we can still watch their vitals,” said Shari Hahn, director of oncology services. “All of our staff is in one area now, too, so the coordination of care is so much better.”

Hahn said having all of the services in one location also makes providing cancer services more convenient for the patient.

“Before, someone would have to go to another building. You might be getting radiation and chemotherapy the same day, but you have to travel, and our staff was traveling,” Hahn said. “Now, they can come here, and it’s all in the same building.

“When they walk in, I want people to feel like we’re here to help them. We can be there to make it easier for them and they can feel comfortable and relaxed.”

The new center was named in honor of Bemidji grocery store chain owner Joe Lueken, who died in 2014 at the age of 72 after battling cancer. To expand and centralize cancer care and honor his legacy, the Joseph and Janice Lueken Family Foundation gave a significant lead gift to the Care Without Limits campaign.

“I’d like to recognize the family of Joe Lueken. Your generosity and memory of a great man, a friend, a father and a husband is humbling,” Nermoe said. “I want to thank you, Janice, for entrusting us with his legacy. Know that his life and legacy will live on in the mission of that building. Thank you for making that possible, and it’s my promise we’ll make you proud.”