Duluth School Board to consider contract with Essentia with more than $300,000 in financial contributions

The new contract also calls for exclusivity with naming rights.

Essentia Health athletic trainer Stephanie Gogolin watches the action from the sidelines at Thursday’s Denfeld’s home boys soccer game against North Branch. (Steve Kuchera /

A new contract with Essentia Health to provide professional sports medicine services to the Duluth school district is on the School Board agenda Tuesday. The new contract comes with more than $300,000 in perks.

The new contract is for five years, set to expire on July 31, 2024. Previously, the district has only entered into two-year contracts with Essentia. The contract also states various financial donations from Essentia to the district totaling up to $335,000. These types of financial donations have not been in previous contracts with Essentia, according to district CFO Cathy Erickson.

The contract states Essentia will purchase and provide athletic training supplies valued at up to $1,000 per year per high school. It also states that Essentia will provide the district $325,000 during the term of the contract with $100,000 provided within 30 days of the approval of the contract to purchase new weight room equipment at Denfeld and East high schools.

In addition, $56,250 is to be distributed annually in equal parts to Denfeld and East to improve athletic facilities and support services associated with student wellness. That sum will be paid within 30 days of the first anniversary date of the contract and continue through the term.

Essentia also offered something new to the long list of services. If the contract is approved, Essentia will also provide a strength and conditioning coach at each high school for up to 90 minutes per day, Monday through Thursday, for the length of the contract.


Also new to the contract is an exclusivity clause that states the district “agrees not to offer, grant or sell the right to name any portion or subordinate portion of a district facility, including but not limited to high schools, sports centers and stadiums, or to place any permanent or temporary signs about a (Duluth Public Schools) facility to any third party whose primary business falls within the category or providing healthcare services or who otherwise could be reasonably identified by Essentia or the public to be a direct competitor of Essentia in the provision of healthcare services.”

The contract states that sponsorships from competitors should not include signage, though any existing signage in the facilities can remain for the duration of the current contract but can not be renewed and nothing new can be added.

Erickson said Essentia added the exclusivity clause after it heard the district was considering a naming-rights policy but emphasized that the policy was not being brought now because of interest from a competitor of Essentia.

A policy is being brought to the board because there has been some interest from community members in renaming Public Schools Stadium after a distinguished alum. Erickson said the district has no such policy other than for naming new schools.

Typically the contract for professional sports medicine services does not go to the board for approval because it is a no-cost contract, Erickson said. Contracts for less than $25,000 do not need board approval.

Erickson said even though it is not an expenditure, administration felt it was pertinent to bring the contract to the School Board for approval due to the financial investments that exceed the $25,000 threshold.

Essentia has provided professional sports medicine services for many years to school districts and universities in the area, including Duluth. Erickson said St. Luke's also reached out to the district about a potential proposal for services.

After meeting with both health care providers, Erickson said Essentia was willing to offer more services as well as financial contributions.


The School Board is expected to vote on this contract during its meeting Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

Essentia Health athletic trainer Stephanie Gogolin prepares an ice bag for Denfeld boys soccer player Owen Walczynski during Thursday’s game. (Steve Kuchera /

Adelle Whitefoot is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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