Artificial turf fields aren't the only new features debuting this summer at West Fargo high school sports stadiums.
Last week, the school district entered into a 10-year sponsorship deal with Essentia Health for sports medicine services that calls for big changes to the West Fargo sporting landscape.
According to a memo sent to the West Fargo School Board in March, Essentia proposed spending $2.5 million with the district over 10 years, more than quadrupling the $600,000 bid proposed by previous provider Sanford Health, whose contract with the district expired on June 30.
The contract gives Essentia exclusive naming rights and exposure in all venues of the West Fargo School District. The company logo is already displayed on the new turf at West Fargo High School's football and soccer field, and will also be displayed on lighted scoreboards, press boxes and various other locations at both West Fargo and Sheyenne, as well as Horace High School, of which construction will start next year. Like Sanford's latest proposal, Essentia will not charge the district for sports medicine services or trainers at its school sporting events.
Athletic trainers at the schools are hired by the health system. The West Fargo Pioneer inquired as to whether school trainers who formerly worked for Sanford would now work for Essentia, or whether new trainers would be assigned to each school.
"Essentia Health does not comment on our hiring practices," said Tara Ekren, media relations specialist with Essentia.
School District Business Manager Mark Lemer is hoping to work with Essentia to implement several new programs within the schools, such as connecting students with medical aspirations with current professionals in the field, immunization clinic opportunities, nurse training and providing students with access to behavioral health services.
“Any place where the school district would interface with the world of medicine is now covered by this agreement," Lemer said. "They may have certain services they can offer. We may have certain services that we’re looking for. If there’s crossover there, that’s where we’re going to spend our time, trying to figure out ways to enhance what we’re doing.”
Field turf installation moving along
Significant progress has been made with the installation of field turf at school football and soccer facilities, with West Fargo High hoping to hold practices on its new surfaces as early as this week.
FieldTurf, which is doing the project for the school district, has laid out the entire surface at West Fargo High. Athletic Director Jay DeCann is hoping the company and members of the school district can inspect the surface early this week.
If it passes inspection, DeCann said teams should be able to immediately begin practicing on the new field.
"I think they're very close to being done," DeCann said. "I think it looks fantastic."
Having dug out the grass surface at Sheyenne, FieldTurf is expected to complete the turf installation process by early August, said Mustangs Athletic Director Ross Richards.
"It seems (FieldTurf) kind of hit their stride," Richards said. "If weather holds out, I think we're going to be ahead of schedule."
Having previously shared a field at the Lodoen Center in West Fargo, boys and girls soccer teams at both schools will share the turf field with their respective football teams.