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Devils Lake hopes to fund convention and wellness center

By   Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald
05 /20/2014

Published by the Grand Forks Herald, May 20, 2014

Devils Lake community leaders decided Monday to pursue a $23.5 million project to build a convention center, possibly with an attached hotel, and a separate wellness center in the community.

They hope to ask voters later this year to approve a ¾-cent city sales tax over 25 years to finance the project, according to Mayor Dick Johnson.

“We had a committee that looked at building one or the other or both, and it was the consensus to proceed with both projects,” he said.

While no site has been secured yet for the convention center, the preferred site is the former Walmart store property along U.S. Highway 2, according to Rachel Lindstrom, executive director of Forward DL, the region’s economic development authority.

The wellness center would be built at Lake Region State College, she said.

“It would be a joint effort with the college,” she said, adding that initial plans call for Lake Region leasing space at the wellness center for its athletic programs, and applying a tuition fee for students. 

Officials hope to hold the election this fall and, if voters approve, to begin construction in the spring of 2015, she said. Construction likely would take about 18 months.

The city has been studying potential plans developed by Icon Architects, a Grand Forks firm.

Devil Lake currently has a 2-percent city sales tax, which has been raising about $2.8 million to $3 million annually in recent years, or about $1.4 million to $1.5 million for each penny of tax, according to City Auditor Linda Lybeck.

She said several companies have expressed interest in developing a hotel along with the convention center.

One of the next steps is to measure the level of interest, she said. “It’s time to see how serious they are and to see if others are interested.”