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Bison Turf suffers yet another untimely setback in reconstruction attempt

Plans for rebuilding the Bison Turf in north Fargo include keeping much of the first floor of the 1930s building the same, while adding another bar area on the second floor, and creating a large outdoor patio area on the west side of the building, facing west to nearby North Dakota State University, as seen in this artist's rendering released Tuesday, Oct. 18. The Turf was heavily damaged by a fire in July. (Rendering supplied by Pete Sabo, owner of the Bison Turf)

FARGO — Rebuilding the Bison Turf might not be able to start in earnest until sometime in December, owner Pete Sabo said.

Sabo, who recently submitted plans to the city's Inspections Department for repairing and expanding the popular northside watering hole, must get the OK from the city's Planning Commission to proceed after questions arose about the Turf having enough parking to handle more patrons.

Sabo wants to add a second-floor bar and a large outdoor patio deck facing west toward the nearby North Dakota State University campus.

The Planning Commission meets Dec. 6.

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The Bison Turf, 1211 N. University Drive, was closed after a July 22 fire heavily damaged the roof and some of the walls of the building.

Paperwork and plans filed with the city indicate that work on the bar is estimated to cost $665,000, with another $50,000 estimated for the parking lot, for a total of $715,000.

"They tell me Planning isn't signing off on it because my parking issue hasn't been resolved yet," Sabo said.

The delay could increase the cost of rebuilding the bar and restaurant, he said.

"It sure is gonna be miserable if I have to wait until the middle of December," Sabo said. "My builder said my cost of building is probably going to go up 30 percent if he has to knock the ice off each board before he puts it up."

City Planning Director Jim Gilmour said the Planning Department will recommend Sabo receive approval for reconstruction, especially since an adjoining NDSU lot can easily handle vehicles of the bar's patrons in the evenings and on weekends.

Sabo said he has a letter from NDSU officials saying he can use the lot in off hours.

Sabo estimated the Turf now has 70 parking spots available.

Gilmour said Sabo could also go ahead and demolish the roof and any fire-damaged walls if he wants to take a chance that his final plans will be approved. In the meantime, Sabo is being asked to adjust his plans by adding more hand-washing sinks in the kitchen to get approval from the city's Health Department, Gilmour said.

"This is just the timeline (that must be followed)," he said. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done. He could be taking off the roof right now and taking down the building, I guess. It's up to him on when to start. It depends on the availability of his contractors."

Gilmour said Sabo just missed the deadline for getting on the Planning Commission's November agenda. Demolishing the Turf and putting up a new building wouldn't have changed the timeline, Gilmour said.

Sabo said he had hoped for official approval to work on the ground floor level of the building, including rebuilding the bathrooms and resetting booths.

"We're ready to start building tomorrow. We're all set to go," Sabo said.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including education, Fargo city government, business and military affairs. He is currently The Forum's K-12 education reporter.

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