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Heidi Shaffer, Published September 29 2010

Sanford Health's $10M Bison arena gift just one of several projects in area

Sanford Health is on track to fulfill its commitment to community investments, the latest being a $10 million donation to remodel the Bison Sports Arena.

But the gift to North Dakota State University is just one on a list of several projects planned following the November merger between MeritCare and the Sioux Falls, S.D.-based health care provider.

Sanford Health has announced funding for a health and wellness center in southwest Fargo’s Urban Plains area and will also provide sports medicine for North Dakota State University.

“We could do or not do these kinds of things, but we think they’re critically important to communities, to universities, to our future,” Sanford CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft said during a news conference Monday.

The money for the Bison Sports Arena comes out of the nonprofit’s about

$2.25 billion annual revenue and constitutes just a fraction of a half-percent of annual expenses, he said.

In response to a question about the contribution coming at a time of higher health care costs, Krabbenhoft said the gift “certainly wouldn’t raise charges.”

In 2007, T. Denny Sanford, the health care provider’s namesake, pledged

$400 million through his charitable foundation to Sioux Valley Health, a South Dakota hospital system.

The donation in South Dakota, and Sioux Falls specifically, led to increased research and expanded medical services, including a new heart facility, children’s hospital and partnerships with state medical schools.

All of the contributions and projects in Fargo-Moorhead have been funded through Sanford Health, not T. Denny Sanford or his foundation, said Darren Huber, a Sanford spokesman.

“Denny’s amazing generosity allows us to continue investing in our communities, but the money does not come from him,” Huber said in an e-mail to The Forum.

In an e-mail memo to Sanford employees, Krabbenhoft said the contribution this week to NDSU is part of the nonprofit’s promise to invest in its communities.

“The more vibrant, dynamic and healthy our communities are, the more successful, energized and prosperous Sanford will be,” Krabbenhoft writes.

Similar contributions for the University of North Dakota and Concordia College are on the horizon, Krabbenhoft said.

Investment in health and wellness programs, economic development efforts and educational initiatives and institutions are all part of Sanford’s goals in a community, he said.

Sanford could not provide the specific amount given since the merger, but contributions total less than 1 percent of annual revenue, Huber said.

Sanford has pledged

$6 million to cover half the costs of a new YMCA fitness and wellness center at the Urban Plains complex. Project sponsors broke ground on the facility, expected to open in fall 2011, last week.

Sanford also announced in June that it would fund a nearby athletic center modeled after a $2.5 million facility the health care provider funded in Sioux Falls.

Perhaps the biggest plans are for a $250 million to $300 million health complex at Agassiz Crossing, an area south of Interstate 94 between 45th Street and Veterans Boulevard. Sanford intends to announce project plans next year, with construction starting in 2013 and finishing in 2016.

A merger with Sanford’s orthopedic surgeons and Fargo’s Orthopaedic Associates is expected to be announced in the next couple of weeks, according to Krabbenhoft’s e-mail.

Sanford plans to invest about $617,500 in a new biotech research facility in NDSU’s Research & Technology Park in the former Alien Technology building starting next year. The project will create 12 jobs in 2011 and up to 96 jobs by 2015. By that year, Sanford expects to invest $8 million per year in the facility.

Sanford budgets $3 million annually to give to other smaller projects, such as the F-M Symphony and Little League teams, Huber said.

The health system is also in the process of implementing a new medical records system that will combine data to be accessed from one program.

Sanford plans to hire 75 positions for the program by the end of the year and will move the technology division to a new location at the 45th Street business center.

Sanford has instituted wage increases, bonuses and hundreds of new staff following the merger, Krabbenhoft said in an employee e-mail.

Since November 2009, Sanford has added 436 new positions in Fargo and 169 in Sioux Falls.

The MeritCare network extended beyond Fargo-Moorhead, and so far Sanford has continued with the plans in place before the merger.

Sanford broke ground this summer on a clinic expansion in Detroit Lakes, Minn., and is working on a proposed hospital and clinic in Thief River Falls, Minn.

Sanford has also picked up what MeritCare started in some cases. Union Hospital in Mayville, N.D., started merger talks with MeritCare in September 2009. The merger was finalized early this year after the MeritCare-Sanford merger.

But the full impact of Sanford’s presence is yet to be seen. This summer, Krabbenhoft said the health care system has big plans for Fargo.


A history of giving

Sanford Health’s history of giving follows in its namesake, T. Denny Sanford’s footsteps.

In 2009, Business Week named Sanford the 15th most generous philanthropist in the United States for giving $706 million from 2004 to 2008.

Sanford formed the Denny Sanford Foundation for charitable giving in 2001.

In 2007, Sanford pledged $400 million to Sioux Valley Health, which is today’s Sanford Health. On top of this contribution, Sanford gave:

  • $16 million in 2004 to build a children’s hospital in Sioux Falls.

  • $20 million directed for growth and development for the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota.

  • $5 million in 2007 to the Mayo Clinic for the T. Denny Sanford Mayo Clinic Pediatric Center.

  • $500,000 to the HealthEast Foundation in St. Paul for the William Sanford welcome center at Bethesda Hospital.

  • Pledged $70 million in 2006 to the state of South Dakota for the Sanford Science Center at Homestake Mine in Lead.

  • $15 million in 2008 to the San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine. The organization was renamed the Sanford Consortium.

  • In 2003, Sanford announced he would give

    $35 million for the proposed University of Minnesota football stadium, his alma mater.

    The arrangement fell through when the university and Sanford could not finalize the agreement, and the naming rights went to TCF Bank.

    Last year, the U of M accepted a $6 million donation from Sanford for the naming rights to the athletic hall of fame in the stadium.


    Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511