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Eric Peterson, Published March 23 2010

Athletic training facility deal may be in works

Sanford Health and MeritCare could be nearing an alliance with the Urban Plains Center and YMCA to build an athletic training facility.

No final decision has been made, but Mark Johnston, vice president of corporate communications for Sanford, said the focus is on the UP Center and the “vision is to build the premier athletic enhancement and training facility in the region.”

Johnston also named the YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties as a “potential” partner.

“The UP folks, they have a very consistent set of goals, and they happen to have facilities and they’ve got land and they’ve got plans,” Johnston said. “We’re intrigued by that. So it’s responsible of us as good community stewards to look at those relationship opportunities.”

When asked if the UP Center has talked with Sanford Health, facility general manager Lance Johnson said he “can’t comment on any of that.”

Paul Finstad, chief executive officer for the YMCA, said he would defer to the information given by Sanford Health.

“The statement would cover what we’ve done with them to this point,” said Finstad, who has talked with Sanford.

Finstad didn’t think an aquatics center would be part of this project.

“I think that’s a separate project,” Finstad said.

Sanford Health has also been linked as a potential donor for renovating North Dakota State’s Bison Sports Arena into a basketball-only facility.

Johnson said Monday the UP Center is getting closer to securing naming rights, but it’s not clear if Sanford Health is also in that mix.

“Several companies have interest in naming rights of our building,” Johnson said. “We’re fairly certain we’ll see it happen in the near future.”

Johnson said “no comment” when asked if an announcement could come this week.

Johnson said adding more ice sheets to the UP Center remains a priority.

“With or without naming rights, we’re going to guarantee that there are going to be additional rinks added on – it’s not if, it’s when,” Johnson said. “That’s always been our commitment.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513