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Beltrami Commissioners briefed on Sanford complex proposal

BEMIDJI -- The concept of the Sanford Family Sports and Wellness Complex was broken down  Tuesday for the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners.

During its work session, officials were given a full report on the proposed complex, which is joint venture including Sanford Health and Greater Bemidji Economic Development. The two entities are working together on the facility and the associated factors that will make it run.

The facility, estimated to take up 175,000 square feet of space, will be located on Sanford Health’s Bemidji campus and include three sections. These include the wellness center with aquatic space, a multi-use sports facility with a bubble roof and a two-sheet ice arena.

The proposed project originated from a community survey conducted by Sanford Health which examined the major needs of the Bemidji area. The sections of the complex are based on those reported needs.

Following the survey, Sanford Health dedicated a $10 million gift to the project. According to Dave Hengel, Greater Bemidji executive director, the estimated cost of the whole project is $27 million and that remaining financing would come through $10 million in private donations and $7 million in bonding.

On Tuesday, Hengel said that the estimated economic impact on the Bemidji area is $9 million from sports tournaments at the complex, with $3.45 million coming in direct spending. Additionally, Hengel said these new tournaments could generate about 15,000 hotel room stays.

Along with the brick and mortar complex, Hengel said the two entities are also looking to create a 2 percent hospitality tax that could generate funding for a new Amateur Sports Commission. The commission would be responsible for promoting the region for sports tourism, as well as leasing and operating the bubble and the ice rinks.

The hospitality tax would generate an estimated $1.25 million annually and the proposal is to split the money in a two-thirds/one-third fashion. The commission would receive roughly $750,000 and the city would get $500,000 annually. According to Hengel, the city could use that funding to cover operating losses at the Sanford Center.

On an annual basis, the city budgets $400,000 from property taxes annually to cover operating losses at the Sanford Center and uses remaining dollars to reinvest in the building.

After providing project details to the board, commissioners focused their questions on how their constituents could use the complex and the benefit it will have to the community. Commissioner Reed Olson, for example, asked about the cost to use the wellness center and if Sanford will monitor health trends of residents after construction.

In response, commissioners were informed that Sanford and Greater Bemidji plan to create scholarships for potential users and a sliding cost scale for membership depending on income. Additionally, Sanford Health plans to immediately begin monitoring the effects the complex has on the community’s wellness.

To allow more public input, Hengel said there will be another open meeting at 4 p.m. on Thursday at the Mayflower Building, located at 102 First St. NW.

Board salary

Following its work session, the commissioners reconvened for their regular board meeting. There, in a 4-1 vote, they approved an annual commissioner salary of $29,796.63, marking a 2.25 percent increase.

Voting in favor of the motion were Commissioners Olson, Keith Winger, Richard Anderson and Tim Sumner, while Jim Lucachick was against.

“The increase was a result of our union contracts going up,” Beltrami County Administrator Kay Mack said after the meeting. “That’s how it was when we negotiated, that way everyone is staying with the same relative salary.”

Tuesday’s meeting was also Sumner’s final as Board chairman. Next in line for the position is Anderson, but he won’t assume the role until January.

“They will make the decision in January. We’ve traditionally had a rotation of board chair based on commissioner district,” Mack said. “The natural rotation is that he (Anderson) will take over.”

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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