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Pool naming rights given to longtime swim family

Steve Hulbert speaks to the West Fargo School Board Monday night in front of a projected image of his late daughter, Heidi Ann Hulbert Rowe. Rowe died in 2004 at age 35. Photo by Rick Abbott

West Fargo’s future aquatic facility will be named for a Horace family in honor of their late daughter, a record-setting collegiate swimmer.

On Monday, the West Fargo School Board unanimously voted to approve naming the pool the Hulbert Aquatic Facility. The board agreed in September to consider that naming rights of the pool and other facilities be given to donors who offer $1 million or more to a project.

Steve Hulbert, a retired Scheels executive, said he and his wife, Diane, will name the facility after their family but in remembrance of their daughter, champion swimmer and diver Heidi Ann Hulbert Rowe.

“She was a child diabetic, so it was an extra challenge for her and throughout her life, but she overcame that and was able to compete at a very high level,” Steve Hulbert said.

He said his family has sought a way to honor and remember Heidi for a long time.

Heidi Ann Hulbert Rowe swam for the Division I Iowa State University swim and dive team until graduating in 1991“We were all very proud of Heidi, her determination, her grit,” he said.

Rowe died at age 35 in 2004 after complications from diabetes, a disease she was diagnosed with at age 6. Just 15 months before her death, Rowe had undergone two organ transplants at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. She died unexpectedly on March 30, 2004, not long after the second transplant.

Rowe started swimming and diving as a seventh-grader in 1981. From 1984-1987, she swam and dove for Fargo South High School and then swam for the Division I Iowa State University swim and dive team until graduating in 1991.

She remains listed as one of the school’s Top 10 all-time ISU divers in 1-meter and 3-meter competitions.

She has two children, Luke and Amanda.

Amanda Rowe is now carrying on her mother’s legacy as a senior team captain of the Division I Pepperdine University (Malibu, Calif.) swim and dive team.

Amanda Rowe wrote on the Pepperdine swim and dive team biography page that she considers her mother her biggest hero, “because she had so much to overcome, and she made the absolute best of it.”

At Monday night’s school board meeting, Erv Inniger, former Park Christian High School and North Dakota State University basketball coach, who has been a powerhouse fundraiser for the college spoke about Heidi’s character. Inniger worked with Rowe at the Fargo Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“I don’t think anybody is more deserving,” Inninger said. “She was unbelievably ethical. Her faith was unwavering. She visualized people with their highest potential and she tried to help get them there. That was a gift.”

Inniger said Rowe never complained despite her health struggles.

“Putting this name on this building is an unbelievable tribute to [West Fargo Public Schools] and to this young lady,” he said. “She was an unbelievable woman who lived her 35 years to the fullest. A person that is so deserving of this recognition.”

Swimming and diving has long been a part of the lives of the Hulbert family, many of which attended Monday’s school board meeting.

“There are 55 years, going on three generations of our family in swimming,” Steve Hulbert said.

Submitted photo Steve and Diane Hulbert stand with their six grandchildren in this undated photo.

Steve Hulbert swam for Fargo Central High School from 1960 to 1964. His brother, Don, was also a high school swimmer who went on to coach in North Dakota and Minnesota. He also served as the Moorhead athletic director from 1989 to 2012.

Steve and Diane’s son, Mark, also swam in high school, and all six of Hulbert’s grandchildren have competed in swimming and diving, Steve Hulbert said.

Steve Hulbert’s grandson and namesake recently graduated from West Fargo High School where he swam for the Packers. Granddaughter Rachel is a student coach for the Packers and youngest grandchild, Timothy, is an eighth grader currently on the Packer swim team.

Hulbert has long been an active supporter of building a state-of-the-art aquatic facility in the metro area. He served on the Urban Plains Aquatics Board, a grassroots committee dedicated to finding and helping fund a new pool. The group has since shortened its name to UP Aquatics.

“We started meeting and started trying to figure out how we could get a better aquatics facility in the Fargo-Moorhead area,” Hulbert said. “We didn’t focus on West Fargo necessarily, although my grandkids all swim for West Fargo. [West Fargo] had the greatest need of all the schools in the metro and they had the worst pool.”

On Nov. 17, West Fargo School District voters approved a $98.1 million bond that included money to build an $18.5 million aquatic facility south of L.E. Berger Elementary at 631 4th Ave. E. It will replace the district’s sole pool at that location, which will be 40 years old next year.

The bonded amount was only enough to pay for a roughly 51-meter pool. The school district agreed that if UP Aquatics can raise enough money, with a goal of $4 million, the additional money could be used to increase the pool size to to be large enough to host high school, regional and national competitions.

“Our goal with UP Aquatics is to enhance whatever we can on this facility,” said UP Aquatics president Lance Bergstrom.

To date, UP Aquatics has raised just shy of $3 million, including the Hulberts’ $1 million donation, which is the group’s largest donation thus far, said lead fundraiser Karen Nitzkorski.

The school district has not yet received final architectural designs for the aquatic facility, but it will include a 66-meter pool, a warm-water practice pool, a dive well and seating for 1,200. Construction is planned to start in the spring, with the facility open by 2017.

“It will make West Fargo the swimming center of the state and even this region because there will be so many higher-level swim meets and competition brought here because of this facility,” Hulbert said.

Bergstrom said he and the group are happy with the Hulberts’ support.

“Steve has been a really strong, but a silent supporter,” Bergstrom said. “He doesn’t necessarily look for a lot of recognition. His vision and our vision coincided and it’s really exciting. He’s never wavered in his support of this project.”

Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and at CBS in Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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