FARGO — Fans sitting on the sideline of the south end zone at the Fargodome last Saturday probably had to do a visionary double take. The goal line into the end zone was irregular from one pylon to the other, the result of an issue with the dome’s turf system.
It had no bearing on North Dakota State’s 49-14 win over the University of South Dakota. Fargodome general manager Rob Sobolik said the culprit were a couple tears in the “leader” that attaches the “Magic Carpet II” turf to the mechanics that store it under the south end zone. He said AstroTurf, the maker of the product based in Dalton, Ga., is coming to Fargo next week to fix it.
The problem most likely was escalated because of a busy dome schedule in October and November with concerts like Celine Dion and Miranda Lambert, Sobolik said. The turf was taken in and out 12 times in that span.
“That’s a lot,” he said. “The turf surface is in great condition and even the underlayment for the most part is fine. It’s the connection point that causes the most tension when it comes in and out.”
It’s the third artificial turf since the dome opened for football in 1993 and the second “Magic Carpet II” product, which was installed in 2012. It’s literally rolled up and stored in a pit under the south end zone floor so the dome can be used for other functions.
There are not many in the country with the Alerus Center in Grand Forks and the The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis being a couple of others. So there is not much precedent in problems like tears in the “leader.”
“We inspect it every week and fix little things here and there,” Sobolik said.
Sobolik said dome staff tried to temporarily fix the crooked goal line using the air system that helps remove the surface. “But at three pounds per square foot of infill at 70,000 square feet, you just don’t grab an end and pull,” he said.
The Bison, 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in the FCS heading into their last regular season game at Southern Illinois on Saturday, are likely to get a first-round bye in the Division I FCS playoffs that start on Nov. 30 no matter if they win or lose. NDSU will probably host a second round game on Dec. 7. Sobolik said that will be enough time for AstroTurf to handle the problem.
NDSU has its indoor bubble over Dacotah Field in operation to use as a practice field.
Sobolik said the Fargo Dome Authority is evaluating options on when the turf is scheduled to be replaced. The branding with Gate City Bank goes through 2022 so the theory is sometime between 2021 and 2023 unless some sort of emergency arises, he said.
“In talking to AstroTurf, what’s the life expectancy?” Sobolik said. “Well, it’s a new product but in a way that’s disadvantageous to us.”