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Patrick Springer, Published June 10 2010

Fitness center at Urban Plains to be ‘revolutionary’

Two nonprofits are joining forces to build a new $12 million fitness center in southwest Fargo that will feature a recreation pool and indoor track among other amenities.

Sanford Health-MeritCare and the YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties, which formed a 50-50 partnership, expect to break ground this summer and open the doors in fall 2011.

The 78,000-square-foot fitness and wellness center, which is yet to be named, will be next door to the Urban Plains Center at 5225 31st Ave. S.

Plans call for a building with prominent windows largely consisting of a main level except for the running and walking track on an upper level.

Other features will include racquetball and handball courts, a cycling room, cardiovascular exercise equipment, group exercise space, community education room, massage and weights.

The two organizations at first were looking separately at building fitness centers in the city’s growing southwest corner, where they expect to generate between 3,300 and 4,400 new fitness memberships.

After comparing notes, the organizations decided to collaborate and combine their strengths in health and fitness, said Dennis Millirons, president of the MeritCare Medical Center, and Paul Finstad, chief executive of the YMCA.

“This facility will be revolutionary in this area,” Millirons said. “It has a unique structure to the area as well,” he added, noting the partnership.

“It really made sense to maximize our potential and collaborate on this facility,” Finstad said, adding that the partnership will enable the center to have a more diverse offering of services, serve more people, and enable state-of-the-art facilities.

The center will be staffed by 25 to 30 people, including exercise specialists. But members also will have “direct access” to physical therapists, doctors and others.

Short-term child care will be available to members while they are using the facility.

Monthly membership fees for the facility, open to all members of the community, have not yet been decided, but will be announced later.

YMCA members will be allowed “limited access,” 12 visits per year to the joint center at Urban Plains.

The YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties, which has locations in downtown Fargo and near West Acres, has 14,000 members. MeritCare’s fitness center fluctuates between 1,300 and 1,600 members.

MeritCare’s fitness center at its Southpointe clinic in south Fargo will be closing, and the space will allow clinic expansion to accommodate its orthopedic doctors. MeritCare fitness members will have the opportunity to “re-enroll” at the new center.

The new fitness center at Urban Plains will be near a planned 25-acre public park that will include five miles of recreation trails, a half-mile body of water, a boardwalk, an amphitheater and a sculpture.

Sanford Health-MeritCare provides sports medicine services for the Fargo Force, the hockey team that plays at the Urban Plains Center.

Although the collaboration of the two organizations is unique in Fargo-Moorhead, the YMCA and Sanford Health have partnerships involving fitness centers in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Worthington, Minn.

Also, of the more than 2,600 YMCAs nationwide, more than 1,100 are collaborations with hospitals, Finstad said.

“We’ve enlarged our circles a bit by working together,” Millirons said. “This partnership will provide value to the community,” by helping to increase fitness and wellness.

New Sanford facility opens

Sanford Health-MeritCare’s research efforts, once spread over several locations in Sioux Falls, S.D., now will be grouped at the new Sanford Center, which opened Wednesday.

The center, located near the intersection of Interstate 229 and Interstate 90 in north Sioux Falls, includes space for research administration as well as laboratories, offices and animal holding facilities. Almost 400 researchers and other employees will occupy the building. Research programs include:

Cancer Biology Research Center, Cardiovascular Health Research Center, Health Disparities Research Center, Sanford Children’s Health Research Center, Methodology and Data Analysis Research Center, Women’s Health Research Center, National Institute for Athletic Health & Performance and the Sanford Project to cure childhood diabetes.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522