Buffalo City Park, Legacy Fund funding moves forward

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House Bill 1425 was passed unanimously by the North Dakota Senate on Monday, March 29 and is expected to be signed by the Governor, opening the North Dakota Legacy Fund to invest more money in the state , according to Jon Godfread, North Dakota’s insurance commissioner and one of the leaders of the effort to pass the bill.

“I was a little surprised by the total number of votes,” he said, referring to its unanimous adoption. “But I was obviously happy with the result. There are good reasons to invest in our state.”

The bill creates a fund to finance water and other government infrastructure projects and sets a target of 10% for investing equity funds in projects in North Dakota.

Godfread said the administration of the Legacy Fund had already set aside 3% for this type of investment and held talks in March for a fund manager to manage a portfolio of local investments.

“There are already good ideas in the hopper,” he said. “The Buffalo City Park is one of the projects where there has been a lot of fieldwork already. It is one of the best formulated projects that I have seen in a long time.”

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The Buffalo City Park project was first presented in November 2019. The planned theme and culture park in Jamestown would offer attractions associated with bison, Native Americans and North Dakota history and would include a museum, children’s playground. children and an amphitheater for entertainment events.

Local supporters of the plan are already moving forward with plans to present the project to the Legacy Fund for funding.

“We are currently working on building a 501 c3 for this,” said Connie Ova, CEO of Jamestown / Stutsman Development Corp. “We are also trying to finalize how to secure the field.”

The project is planned for land adjacent to Interstate 94 and currently used as bison pasture by the National Buffalo Museum, which leases the land to the North Dakota State Hospital under a 99-year agreement.

Other local planning includes determining the type of street, water and sanitation infrastructure needed in the area to accommodate what has been estimated to be over 200,000 visitors per year.

“We have to work with the community to see where they see fit,” Ova said. “There are a handful of people working on the rest of the project.”

A JSDC-sponsored financial feasibility study estimated that the park would pay off at an investment of $ 60 million that would include construction and start-up costs before opening the doors in April 2024.

Godfread said House Bill 1425 did not include an emergency clause and would become law on August 1. Fund administrators have already interviewed three candidates for a fund manager to handle local investments and may hire one of the candidates as early as the April meeting.

“I don’t think we’ll have a hard time meeting an August deadline,” Godfread said. “The pressure will be on the Legacy Fund board and the State Investment Board to make this happen.”

Some of the fund managers interviewed indicated that it would take about six months to be able to review investment proposals, Godfread said.

“We could be looking at an end of year schedule,” Godfread said. “If you’re not making investments, at least revise the investments.”

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