Plans to create regional Islamic center apparently over, as state now owns site due to unpaid taxes

By Louis Hoglund

The former Pelican Rapids Bowling Alley could end up with the city.

The building had been acquired by the Islamic Society of Fargo-Moorhead, and plans were launched in 2016 to renovate the building as a regional center for Muslims. 

But the structure and property are now in the state’s hands; forfeited because of delinquent tax payments. It has been since 2016 that taxes have gone unpaid, according to records at Pelican Rapids city hall. The parcel and building were taxed at about $1,500 per year. 

Word that the building could be acquired by the city nearly for free—if used for a public purpose—launched several proposals. 

Because of its location, directly across County Road 9 from the city public works shops, the building could be used for storage. Public Works Superintendent Brian Olson proposed that the city use the structure for storage of equipment—which would free up space at the existing shops for road salt storage. 

Unanswered questions are numerous. Because the state now owns the building, nobody has been able to access it—nor does there even appear to be a key readily available. 

The Otter Tail County Auditor’s office wasn’t even aware that the property had reverted to the state due to non-payment of taxes. City administrator Don Solga said information is pending from Otter Tail auditor Wayne Stein. 

The Islamic organization had invested substantially into the project. Interior remodeling and air handling equipment are among the improvements. The few that have actually seen the interior reported that it is “gorgeous.”

Councilman Kevin Ballard suggested that it would be a ”waste to just use the building as storage,” if the interior is renovated to the extent that has been rumored. 

One idea that surfaced, though very preliminary, is the possibility of using the remodeled space as a child care center. 

Though specific uses of the building and property are uncertain, the council agreed to explore the idea with the state and Otter Tail County to acquire the building. 

City administrator Solga said that the city could likely acquire it at no cost—but it must be for a public purpose if the state transfers it to the city. 

If a private party stepped forward with an interest, it would essentially be a transaction between the state and the private business. 

The Islamic group had ambitious plans to create a regional Islamic Center in Pelican Rapids—being centrally located in the Red River Valley, and with a substantial Muslim population locally. 

Progress had been on and off over the past six-seven years, but few of the general public locally had toured the interior. 

There had been some roof renovations, but for the most part, the improvements had been interior.

An attempt by the Press to reach a spokesperson with the Islamic Society was unsuccessful.