Construction of $27M Sports and Wellness Project in Bemidji Pushed Back
Plans for a $27 million sports and wellness center in Bemidji are being put on hold after the two organizations spearheading the project, Greater Bemidji Economic Development and Sanford Health, opted to make sure stakeholders and city officials were on the same page.
Construction of the Sanford Family Sports and Wellness Complex, which was set to start later this year, has been pushed back to summertime next year, officials told the Bemidji Pioneer.
In its current stage, the 175,000-square-foot facility would include an overall wellness center, a multi-use sports “bubble” facility and a two-sheet ice arena.
However, concerns over funding and a long-term economic plan for the facility is what have largely stalled its production.
Sanford Health, which will host the sports and wellness center at its Bemidji campus, has promised to contribute $10 million towards the project. Another $10 million will need to come from private donations and the remaining $7 million in bonding.
Key to the center’s success will be the establishment of a management organization, according to Greater Bemidji and Sanford Health. The two organizations have suggested implementing a 2 percent hospitality tax (applied to the area’s hotels and restaurants) to fund the creation of an Amateur Sports Commission. The group would ultimately be responsible for promoting the center as a sports destination, while handling leasing and operations of the sports and wellness complex.
Current estimates suggest the 2 percent tax would bring in $1.25 million each year, although it would require approval from the Minnesota Legislature to be enacted. Approximately $750,000 of the tax money would go toward the commission with the half-a-million-dollars left over going to the city and largely be used to cover the operating deficit of the city-owned Sanford Center.
According to Greater Bemidji, the establishment of the sports and wellness center and the sports commission could be a boon to the city, which is experiencing little population growth and faces a poverty rate nearly twice the state average.
The organization currently estimates a $9.4 million annual economic impact to the region if plans for the center and commission move forward, the Bemidji Pioneer said. About $3.5 million would be direct spending and the potential for about 15,000 additional hotel room stays driven by tournaments organized by the sports commission.
With hopes of the plan moving forward, Greater Bemidji executive director Dave Hengel told the city newspaper he was “excited” to work out a plan soon. “With a project like this, and the size that this is, and the creative way of funding projects like this,” he said, “you have to be aligned.”