MOUNTRAIL COUNTY – Two Mountrail County communities are investing in their youth and in sporting opportunities.
Parshall Public School is completing construction of a $10 million complex that includes a football field, track and gymnasium while Stanley Public School works to complete upgrades to its football and track facility. This past summer, the Stanley Park Board opened a nearly $2 million recreational complex.
The recreational complex includes a baseball field, and two fields for softball and children’s baseball, a concessions building and bleachers.
The park board bought land in 2016 for a future facility after the city acquired the existing ball diamonds to accommodate housing growth. The park board utilized an older baseball field and softball field at the school collecting donations and city sales tax allocations for a new facility.
“It’s just been a slow process over the years. We’ve done fundraisers. We’ve done grant writing,” said recreation director Cassie Fjeldahl.
The result is a fully paid-for facility that served more recreation participants than ever this year. Fjeldahl estimated 200 people from the broader community directly benefited from the programs.
Looking ahead, the park board would like to plant trees and eventually put in playground equipment, Fjeldahl said.
Only a couple of blocks from the school, the fields can be used by the school. This fall, a park-sponsored fifth- and sixth-grade tackle football program is using the complex as practice grounds.
Work on the Will Athletic Complex renovation at the Stanley school started in August and should wrap up next May or June. When finished, it will feature new lighting, a press box, an eight-lane track and new grandstand that seats 750.
“This is a pretty unique project because it’s a partnership,” said Athletic Director Brooks Stafslien. “Our Boosters have actually raised the money through donations to fund a majority of this project.”
Fundraising is continuing but has reached nearly $1 million, which has been enough to move the bulk of the project forward. Heath Hetzel with the Booster Club said the generosity of the community, both businesses and individuals, has been great.
“There’s a lot of individuals that have taken ownership and jumped in to help get this done,” he said.
“Ultimately, our goal is to keep going with it and keep improving it,” Stafslien said. Future plans as funds become available include installing turf to replace the field grass, further upgrades to the football field and construction of a concessions facility.
Stafslien said the track and field program in Stanley typically draws about 70 students. It is the school’s largest and most successful sports program, he said. Among alumni is Riley Dolezal, a javelin specialist who competed at North Dakota State University from 2005-09 and was the U.S. Javelin Champion in 2013 and 2017.
The program’s success comes despite not having a usable track for the past 20 years, Stafslien said.
The new facilities are expected to boost that program. The football program hasn’t missed a beat either, despite the ongoing construction. Construction did force one game relocation. Parshall opened its new field for Stanley’s use early in the season.
Construction on the athletic field at the Parshall school started in October 2019. The football field opened with a ribbon cutting on Sept. 4. Work has continued on an eight-lane track and associated landscaping, including hydroseeding, with just finishing touches left.
Supt. Shane Sagert said a building committee spent hours collecting information before approaching the MHA Nation tribal chairman and local tribal council representative to gain their support on behalf of a financial request of the council. In the end, the council agreed to fund the full $10 million cost of the project.
The school’s former football field was removed and a new turf field built to replace it. The project included a grandstand that seats 1,000, lighting, concessions, lockerrooms and a gymnasium primarily for physical education and practices. The gym is in addition to another newly constructed gymnasium that hosts the school’s athletic events.
Sagert said the school’s former field was no longer in ideal shape and track facilities had deteriorated to the point where they were not useful. A crowsnest meant for scorers, coaches and cameras was not desirable for safety and other reasons. No concessions or restrooms existed other than in the nearby school.
The new facility addresses all those limitations. With the new facility, Sagert said, the school already has seen growth in the football program and is anticipating significant numbers in the track and field program after years of minimal participation.
“We would love to host play-off games. We would love to host big track events,” he said.
The Stanley school also hopes to host regional and invitational track and field meets and allow other schools to host meets at its facility.
The new facilities in Parshall and Stanley will positively impact sports activities into the future, and that’s especially true for track and field.
“When you look at Class B schools, there’s not much in the way of facilities in this part of the state,” Stafslien said of track and field. “Hopefully, we will be able to host some things and satisfy the need in this area.”