With a focus on attracting visitors and future workforce, the Governor’s Office and the North Dakota Department of Commerce today announced $25 million of matching grants to create new attractions in North Dakota communities, enable significant expansions of existing attractions and support key amenities aiding the tourism economy across the state.
Governor Burgum proposed $50 million for the Destination Development grant program in his executive budget recommendation for the 2023-25 biennium, and the Legislature approved $25 million in grant funding. Applications were accepted in July and August.
“There was tremendous interest in the program, with 81 projects from 42 communities requesting more than $151.5 million in funding. While we had hoped the Legislature would allocate additional dollars during the special legislative session to support more projects, we are excited to see the many unique and innovative projects that were proposed and able to be funded,” said Commerce Tourism and Marketing Director Sara Otte Coleman. “As our state and its workforce needs continue to grow and diversify, it’s crucial that we recognize the immense potential to attract visitors and recruit talent by creating unique attractions and amenities, and these projects are a great start.“
We diligently reviewed and scored each proposal on the application criteria and further evaluated them based on the following:
- Would the new attraction or expansion motivate new trips to North Dakota from non-residents?
- Is the expansion tied to a defining North Dakota theme or location?
- Will the project have a lasting impact?
- Will the project progress toward completion during the 2023-25 biennium?
Additionally, the reviewers made the strategic decision to support projects that enhance winter sports across the state and attractions that would enhance tribal tourism.
“We are making tourism business development a priority at Commerce by recognizing the value new attractions provide, not only by attracting visitors and spending but also by improving our quality of life,” said Commerce Commissioner Josh Teigen. “These project applications will help us further refine how we can support the development of tourism to help diversify our economy.”
Expanding lodging at Lake Sakakawea
Indian Hills is a resort on Lake Sakakawea west of Garrison and south of Parshall. $200,000 was awarded and will be used for the construction of a multi-room lodge (Arrowhead Lodge) intended for group and family rentals. The percentage funded of the total project is 40%.
Creating a public plaza as part of Minot downtown redevelopment
Minot’s project includes seven entities collaborating to strengthen tourism and appeal to out-of-state visitors by developing thematic offerings anchored in downtown Minot. The innovative project includes: Atypical Bier Hall, The James Hotel, Union Silo Public Art Project, Aurora restaurant, Junction Market and Eatery, Hidden Agenda and Citizens Alley. The $1 million grant was awarded to support the Citizen’s 33Alley portion of the project which will create a pedestrian-only public plaza that will include outdoor amenities comprised of a turf activity lawn (ice in winter), fountain and splash pad, public art, a mobile stage, area for concessions and additional pieces of the proposal. The funds will make up 3.7% of the total project.
Supporting effort for a Bison-themed amusement park in Jamestown
Bison World is a proposed, multi-faceted, year-round amusement park in Jamestown. It will offer a Discovery Center, safaris of the live Bison herd, zip lines, gondola rides, entertainment and a children’s adventure park. The $3 million will be used to help build out a full finance package. The percentage funded of the total project is 4%.
Expanding the dinosaur and Badlands museum exhibits in Dickinson
The Dickinson Museum Center expansion project was awarded $1 million to expand the museum center. The expanded gallery will provide room for additional exhibits, activities and field studies. The award was 5% of the total project.
Adding lodging and entertainment amenities to Frost Fire Park near Walhalla
Frost Fire Park is a ski resort, mountain bike park and theater located near Walhalla in the Pembina Gorge area. The project was awarded $1,750,000. The percentage funded of the total project is 15%. Funds will be used for phase 2 of their strategic plan, which includes 20 cabins, an outdoor amphitheater and a natural playground.
Creating a riverfront festival grounds in Bismarck
Riverfront Festival Grounds is a planned, outdoor event space in Bismarck. The project was awarded $4 million, or40% of the total project. The Riverfront Festival Grounds would use grant funds to develop a bandshell, programmable lawn space, public beach, boardwalk and fishing piers, outdoor food court for food trucks, splash pad and playground equipment.
Expanding upscale hunting experience in the prairie pothole region near Medina
The Scott Moser Hunting and Fishing Lodge and Resort project is a full-service hunting lodge in the Medina area. The $500,000 award is 20% of the total project. Funds will be used for construction of the lodge, and guests will purchase complete hunting packages.
Creating a recreation trail with pavilions near the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in Medora
The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library will utilize funds for the construction of free recreation trails, paths and pavilions around the grounds of the library and connecting area features such as the Maah Daah Hey Trail, the Chateau de Mores and the Medora Musical. The $4 million award is 1% of the total project.
Building powwow grounds and enhancing tribal tourism offerings
The Turtle Mountain Comprehensive Tourism Plan includes several projects. $1.5 million in funding was awarded for various projects including the construction of a Powwow Arbor located at the International Peace Garden. The percentage funded of the total project is 11%.
Expanding the Western heritage of Medora through the development of a new rodeo grounds
Western Heritage Initiative was awarded $4 million and encompasses the construction of several key facilities, including a rodeo grandstand and main arena, an entrance to the arena, a practice arena, horse stalls, campsites and a learning center in Medora. The percentage funded of the total project is 23%.
Expanding lakeside event space at Devils Lake
Woodland Resort is a resort on the shores of Devils Lake. The grant of $1,750,000 will be used to construct a 400-person event center on the existing resort property to allow for large group events and trade shows. The percentage funded of the total project is 31%.
Winter sports projects
Providing stability to skiing operations in Bottineau
Bottineau Winter Park is a ski area near Bottineau. The project was awarded $1,450,000, which is 50% of the total project. Funds will be used to completely replace the snowmaking system to assure a longer season for skiers, snowboarders and sledders.
Expand night operations and visitor experience at Huff Hills in Morton County
Huff Hills is a ski area south of Mandan. The award is $650,000, 49% of the total project. Funds will be used for a new welcome center, an expanded snowmaking system, an upgraded electrical system to add night skiing/boarding and an expanded alpine racecourse area.
Expand chalet and increase offerings at Thrill Hills near Fort Ransom
Thrill Hills is a ski hill in Fort Ransom. The award is $200,000, which is 40% of the total project. Funds will be used for the construction of an expanded chalet to increase seating and add a commercial kitchen.
In order to support more projects, no applicant received the full amount requested. Awardees will have 30 days to determine if the grant funding will allow their projects to continue to progress during the 2023-25 biennium.
Commerce will continue to work with all the applicants who applied for the funds to support new offerings for visitors across North Dakota. Additional information on other funding sources can be found at: https://www.commerce.nd.gov/tourism-marketing/industry-toolkit/tourism-development.