Sanford Health began an expansion of the Sports Complex last summer that will add 18 outdoor turf fields to the Sanford Sports Complex in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and be ready by 2022. That’s 173 acres with nearly 1.7 million square feet of turf.
It’s a dramatic expansion of what is already regarded as a regional sports and recreation mecca. The ongoing construction highlights a comprehensive effort that has created new sports opportunities in communities in Bemidji, Minnesota, and Grand Forks, Bismarck and Fargo, North Dakota, in addition to Sioux Falls.
“Sanford has an obligation — a moral responsibility — as a health care organization to promote healthy activities and lifestyles,” said Steve Young, president of the Sanford Sports Complex. “We have an obligation to invest in our communities in ways that promote health and well-being as well as economic activity.”
It is clear Sanford has acted on that obligation both in Sioux Falls and throughout the health care system. Sanford POWER Centers outside Sioux Falls amount to approximately 65,000 square feet of facilities dedicated to sports and activity-specific training in Bemidji, Bismarck, Grand Forks and Fargo.
Why Sanford invests in sports
The investment in sports began in earnest when the Sanford Fieldhouse opened in 2012 and the Sanford Pentagon opened in 2013 in northwest Sioux Falls. The area includes nine junior football fields that will soon be joined by the additional turf fields now being constructed.
With the Pentagon and Fieldhouse serving as prominent cornerstones, the location has since attracted the sports-themed interest of private investment with the addition of the Scheels Ice Plex (2014), the Huether Family Match Pointe indoor tennis facility (2015), Power & Grace Gymnastics (2018) and Great Shots (2019).
It is estimated the addition of the new fields, which will all have lights, will add one million visitors to Sioux Falls over the next five years via increased participation in tournaments, training programs and youth and adult league games in baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse and other activities.
“This is a landmark day for children in our communities who are simply looking for a chance to play,” Young said when Sanford announced its plans to expand the complex. “We will now be able to provide year-round programming and opportunities on our campus that will allow more athletes and their families to experience the positive and foundational growth sports offers.”
The additions to the Sports Complex, made possible by a portion of a $300 million gift from Denny Sanford that was announced in March, represent a robust attempt to reach out to the community. Promoting and supporting sports has proven to be an effective way for a health care system to improve lives.
“Think about the role athletics plays in today’s society,” Young said. “Sports and fitness will engage more individuals, more families and more communities in a shared activity than any cultural movement, organization or religion in America. Those activities provide the largest platform where a transmission of values can occur. For us, those activities create a window into the mission and vision of Sanford Health.”
Health and wellness for all
Sanford focuses on three main areas of impact: health and wellness for all, education, and quality of life. By expanding the Sports Complex and increasing its sports programming, Sanford is delivering on all three pillars.
“The overall goal is to be able to create an experience that reaps a harvest of well-being, economic development and healthy lifestyles,” Young said. “We’re in a unique position to be able to deliver these at Sanford.”
With a full slate of basketball and volleyball games that range from youth to marquee major-college events broadcast on national networks, the Pentagon is a busy place for spectators as well as a participants.
These events go well beyond the Sports Complex and well beyond the boundaries of Sioux Falls. Most notably that includes the Sanford International, a PGA Tour Champions event held annually in September at Minnehaha Country Club that generates more than $20 million in economic activity per year.
“Sanford always does a good job at filling gaps in the community, seeing where gaps exist and also innovating and doing new things,” said Sioux Falls mayor Paul TenHaken. “I think of things like sporting events or the Sanford International. That’s an economic impact driver in our community. It brings in people, it brings in a sales tax revenue. It’s not just the health care aspect, but it’s all those other ancillary products and services that Sanford offers that I think really influences our economy as well.”
In this case, support for sports is an economic driver on a big scale. But it comes with the potential for countless opportunities for personal growth, especially for young people. Young calls this a process of developing “the soft skills of life.”
“A soft skill is being able to look people in the eye, shake their hand and be a good sport,” Young said. “At Sanford Health we have a responsibility to help develop that in our kids. We can be one more positive source in their lives that says ‘It’s appropriate to show up on time, to look people in the eyes, to shake hands and to respect authority.’ We have a lot of people with the capacity to change lives for the good of others for generations to come.”
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