Northern Air’s major plans help launch new loan program in Grand Forks – Grand Forks Herald

Bryan Lee dreams big at Northern Air, where he plans millions of dollars in changes.

Northern Air has been in the news since 2013, when it opened in the former Center Court Fitness Center near Washington Street and 32nd Avenue South, offering 10,000 square feet of trampolines, dodgeball and basketball. -airborne ball included. Today’s Northern Air has a laser beacon, arcade, virtual reality station, and – one of its more recent additions – an ax-throwing station.

Now Lee is aiming higher, with plans underway for around $ 5 million in upgrades that will make it something like nationwide Dave and Busters – plus a little extra. This includes a new mini-golf course, restaurant, interior redevelopment, and perhaps the biggest new development of all: a 1072-foot multi-level indoor go-kart track.

“These will be state of the art electric karts, with the ability that I can push a button, and I can have a bunch of 6 or 7 year old kids going 10 miles an hour,” a- he declared. noted. “I can have the next older group, set it a little higher, right down to helmets and adult races.”

It’s an ambitious project, with the potential to stimulate not only interest in Northern Air, but the city as a whole. The go-kart track and mini-golf course are likely summer projects, he said, which will open by fall.

Artist’s impression of a go-kart track offered by Northern Air in Grand Forks.

Submitted

“What we’re going to create is really a place of destination,” he said. “Currently, we are drawing from afar. It’s going to continue to help Grand Forks be a place people want to come and where they want to stay and play.

Top City Hall officials agree – in fact, they’re enthusiastic enough to give the project a low-interest loan of nearly $ 108,000 that Lee will use to reduce interest charges ( and also unlock a grant of $ 200,000 from the Bank of North Dakota). Granted by the city’s Jobs Development Authority in recent weeks, this is the first loan of its kind under a new “quality of life” program that aims to stimulate exactly the kind of local offerings that Northern Air is building.

“We have moved from a focus on ‘how do we create good jobs here? “To” how do we find the workforce to fill the existing jobs and create excellent jobs in this community? “Said Meredith Richards, a member of the town’s community development staff. “And so the quality of life is part of our area of ​​economic development nowadays. “

In fact, City Hall has run a multi-year campaign to help strengthen the Grand Forks workforce. Part of that means bringing in new employers – something the city is now pursuing as it courted the Fufeng Group, a food company exploring a new manufacturing facility in the city’s northwest quadrant. Success with the Chinese company could mean a significant increase in jobs and investment in the community.

But another big part of the project is to make the community more attractive to modern workers. In 2021, the city considered installing a large aquarium in the Grand Cities shopping center, for example, but ultimately scuttled those plans. Efforts to redevelop Columbia Mall are also under discussion. Another proposal is to add a children’s museum in Grand Forks – an idea that received a 100,000 state planning grant.

“We’re really trying to keep and maintain our existing workforce and develop it inside and outside the community,” said city administrator Todd Feland. “Our growth and development depends on having an engaging community that people want to live in. “

The city’s new agenda has remarkably fluid guidelines, Richards said, with relatively few concrete guidelines for what qualifies. The program aims to create unique or remarkable experiences that give the community an edge in building their workforce – and that’s not always easy to define.

“The fear is that people will misinterpret this and think, ‘Oh, I have a great restaurant, and if I renovate my restaurant, I will have access to this great interest rate.’ … The restaurants are great, but it’s not something that fits the definition of something unique or an experiential attraction that isn’t already available, ”said Richards.

The business sector in Grand Forks continues to grow despite COVID and despite the new omicron variant, which will almost certainly be a headwind in 2022. Lee pointed out that in the early months of the pandemic, Northern Air was closed for months, and the still tangled supply chain nodes in the aftermath of the pandemic still pose questions for the future of the business. If the steel for the go-kart project is delayed, for example, it will push back one of Northern Air’s top development priorities, he said.

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But for now, he’s optimistic. Business is picking up, and for now, business is heading in the right direction.

“We’re happy to be a part of what people can do in Grand Forks, and we think with this new expansion it’s going to help attract a lot of people,” Lee said. “And while they’re here at the fork they’re going to spend the money, and that helps the whole economy here.” “


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