A new era in Laker athletics: State-of-the-art new fieldhouse opens at Detroit Lakes High School
The new Lakeshirts Fieldhouse is in the upper echelon of high school facilities thanks to its high-end technology, top-end athletic training room, upper level track, and spacious seating on all four sides.
The soft opening of the new Lakeshirts Fieldhouse on Jan. 4 marked the beginning of a new era for Laker athletics.
The expansive new three-basketball court athletic facility was part of the recent $27 million improvement project at Detroit Lakes High School, and it's turning heads across the state. The fieldhouse is in the upper echelon of high school facilities thanks to its high-end technology, top-end athletic training room, upper level track, and spacious seating on all four sides.
"Our architects did a great job of coming up with ideas," Activities Director Rob Nielsen said. "A lot of our ideas came from the Perham facility (the new gym at Perham High School). They have a really neat setup... We also expanded ours, so there's some more seating."
Lakeshirts Fieldhouse features five video boards — something few other high schools can boast. In the center of the facility hangs a four-sided video scoreboard visible from all areas of the gym, and a large screen overlooking the bleachers hangs on the far side of the gym from the entrance.
"When we had the guys come in here to do the installation, they said they haven't done an install like this anywhere in the country," Nielsen said. "That's kind of neat when you hear stuff like that."
Local taxpayers voted in 2018 to allocate $49.9 million to the school district (including $27 million to the high school) for renovations and add-ons to the district's buildings. Plans for the new gym were included as a part of that project.
"We were in a pinch for gym space at the high school," said Nielson. "When we started looking at spaces, there was some discussion about doing a two-court fieldhouse. We really pushed that it wasn't going to be enough."
The Detroit Lakes-based apparel company Lakeshirts donated $1 million toward school improvement projects that weren't covered by the 2018 bond referendum, and got naming rights to the new fieldhouse.
Saying goodbye to the Ralph
The opening of Lakeshirts Fieldhouse also marks the beginning of the end of the Ralph Anderson Gym era. The old multipurpose facility will host a handful of games yet before undergoing renovations. The district partnered with the Thielen Foundation to turn the space into a fitness training facility to replace the existing weight room.
"We're working on finalizing that right now, but it's a go," Nielsen said. "Construction on that is going to start in March and, hopefully, be ready for our summer speed and strength stuff."
The current weight room will transition into a dance studio.
The inspiration behind these changes to the existing facility comes from scheduling challenges.
"During the winter time, we have nine teams that need gym space," Nielsen said. "We've been going with early and late practices where we've kept kids here until late at night. The dance teams have been going over to (Rossman Elementary) to practice. The goal is to get all of those kids back under one roof."
Sanford Health is working on obtaining naming rights for the former multipurpose gym at the high school. It's planned to be named in honor of Dr. Tom Seaworth, a 2021 Laker Hall of Fame inductee and longtime Sanford Health physician who also chaired the Detroit Lakes School Board for many years.
The Sanford partnership extends into the new training room, which will be a state-of-the-art facility for the school's trainers and athletes.
"It's a space that rivals a lot of college athletic training rooms," Nielsen said. "There's all new furniture in there with Laker logos on it. It's really first-class. With some of these partners, businesses and the booster club, who footed a large portion of the video screens, it's just really impressive."
Becoming an athletic hub
One of the many benefits of adding a new athletic facility is the opportunity to host youth sporting events outside of the Detroit Lakes High School regular-season games. Not only will Lakeshirts Fieldhouse be a place to host youth sports tournaments, but it can also be used as a neutral site destination for section playoff events for teams in the north, west and central parts of the state.
"You look at a town like Alexandria that hosts section football games on their turf field, and you realize that each one of those games brings in about 1,000 people that wouldn't be in your town for that night," Nielsen said. "A lot of those people stop to get gas or get a bite to eat. Some of them might even stay the night."
Detroit Lakes will be able to host more than just neutral site basketball events. Volleyball, wrestling, dance and weight lifting can all bring a positive economic impact to the area.
"We benefit a lot from being centrally located," Nielsen said. "If you have a section that runs from Brainerd to Moorhead to Bemidji and down to Buffalo, all of a sudden, you become a central place for those teams. If Bemidji and Alexandria play in a section championship basketball game, we are now a good place to host that. The same goes for a lot of the schools in smaller sections."
Despite being in regular use for games now, Lakeshirts Fieldhouse isn't quite finished yet. Nielsen expects some finishing touches will be complete toward the end of the school year, if not the summer.
The school's Jan. 4 basketball games were the first to be played at the new fieldhouse; an official grand opening is tentatively planned for sometime later this month or in February.
"The ability for this community to step up is second to none. You look at the things that have happened with the Boys and Girls Club, the community center and opening the mountain back up — all of the people in our community still amaze me. Obviously Lakeshirts has had a hand in all of it. But somehow, some way, it always seems to get done, and it's not always at taxpayers' expenses. It's a group of people leading and wanting to make things happen."