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Published September 28, 2010, 12:00 AM

Sanford Health gives $10 million to Bison Sports Arena renovation

The North Dakota State basketball programs swished a 3-point field goal on Monday. In fact, they made 10 million of them.

By: Jeff Kolpack, INFORUM

The North Dakota State basketball programs swished a 3-point field goal on Monday. In fact, they made 10 million of them.

Sanford Health announced a $10 million corporate gift that university officials called the cornerstone of a $32 million capital campaign to fund the renovation of the Bison Sports Arena. It is the largest one-time donation in the history of the NDSU Development Foundation.

“It’s a game changer for the university, and it’s a game changer for the athletic department,” said NDSU President Dean Bresciani.

No construction starting date has been set, but Athletic Director Gene Taylor said “sooner than later.” The entire project will be named the Sanford Health Athletic Complex, but Taylor said there remains the option of naming rights possibilities for the basketball arena.

It will seat 5,700 people with most of the chairback seating being retractable. The current BSA has a capacity of 5,830.

“It feels like Christmas in September,” said Bison head men’s basketball coach Saul Phillips.

The project includes a two-court basketball practice addition and a separate indoor track-and-field facility west of the arena. The capital campaign will also finish funding for the $3.4 million football office and locker room complex at the Fargo­dome that was completed in 2006.

The BSA remodel has been several years in the making. An original funding campaign that began just after Taylor arrived at NDSU in 2001 raised almost $8 million. There is $6.9 million remaining that will carry over to this project that includes $2.7 million going toward the football project, the university said.

Broken down, $29 million is slated for the arena, which was designed by Fargo-based T.L. Stroh Architects and Interiors, and $5 million for the indoor track complex. An architect has yet to be selected for that portion.

Taylor said the athletic department is still talking to donors and he said there are “commitments that are close to signing.” The construction timetable is slated for 18 to 24 months.

He said the plan is not to interrupt the men’s and women’s basketball and wrestling seasons, although Taylor has contacted the Fargodome just in case another arena is needed.

The athletic department personnel won’t miss the weight training facility being moved to the main floor. It’s currently on the second level, located right above most of the BSA offices, including Taylor’s.

“It’s kind of like that train that goes by all the time, you get used to it,” he said. “But we’ve had people in who are not used to it and when a weight hits the floor, they practically jump out of their skin.”

The drawings released on Monday are not the first for the project. Taylor said the Division I reclassification and conference affiliation took priority for much of this decade.

“I was showing blueprints in 2004,” said former Bison head men’s basketball coach Tim Miles, now at Colorado State. “I’m glad it’s coming to fruition. It’s the only thing NDSU lacked. You look at that athletic department, community, support and school and the condition of that facility didn’t match up to any of that.”

Phillips said he’s had recruits tell him they like the university and the coaching staff. “Then they’ll tell me, ‘But I can’t play in the Bison Sports Arena,’ ” he said.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 9-11 a.m. on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia