Sanford Center


The 185,000-square-foot Bemidji Regional Event Center, now called the Sanford Center, opened in the fall of 2010. Located on the south shore of Lake Bemidji, the Sanford Center is a Minnesota destination for concerts, conventions and athletic events. It is the home of the Bemidji State University men’s and women’s hockey teams and is surrounded by more than 60 acres of public parks, trails and scenic areas.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) Petroleum Brownfields Program and the Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup (VIC) Program assisted in environmental investigation and redevelopment activities at the center. The two programs also worked with Widseth Smith Nolting to implement response actions for site cleanup and development.

Environmental Issues and the Cleanup Process

The site was once occupied by sawmills, a plywood manufacturing plant, a coal and wood fired power plant, and a railyard with a locomotive repair roundhouse. On-site soils contained lead, arsenic, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act metals and petroleum contaminants.

Four hundred cubic yards of petroleum contaminated soils were removed and transported to an approved land treatment facility. In addition, impacted soils that met Site re-use criteria were thin-spread under the on-site parking lot areas and paved with asphalt.


Redevelopment of the Site

  • A 90-acre site located on the south shore of Lake Bemidji, with an adjacent 50 acres marked for future development.
  • The 185,000-square foot facility features a 4,700 seat arena with 25 suites and 200 club level seats, a 10,000 square-foot ballroom and 4,000 square-foot breakout meeting space.
  • On-site parking for meetings and facility events.

Environmental and economic benefits

The new Sanford Center will operate year round to provide Bemidji the opportunity to become a destination for national tournaments, camps, training, concerts and performing artists. Therefore, the center will have a continuing positive economic impact in addition to the existing tourism benefit.

Assurances received

April 9, 2009: PBP Response Action Plan approval letter issued to the City of Bemidji
April 8, 2009: VIC Response Action Plan approval letter issued to the City of Bemidji
December 30, 2009: No Association Determination issued to the Department of Natural Resources
December 19, 2011: Petroleum Storage Tank Release Site Closure letter issued to the City of Bemidji

Project partners

  • Mark Koplitz and Bassou Oulgout, Petroleum Brownfields Program, MPCA
  • David Knight and Mark Elliott, Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup Program, MPCA
  • Widseth Smith Nolting