FARGO — Adjusting the budget is a work in progress and the prospect of fans at North Dakota State basketball and football games in the coming months is still up in the air. The coronavirus pandemic has been problematic.
Asked about the general attitude in the NDSU athletic office and athletic director Matt Larsen said it’s been good, but with the following caveat of words: stress, anxiety and unknowns. But not everything is in a state of uncertainty.
Larsen said funding for the long-awaited indoor football facility may be finished before 2020 is done.
“It will help morale,” he said. “It will help just because we’re showing progress; it shows we’re moving forward and that will help recruiting.”
The $37.2 million project, with all funds privately raised, received approval from the State Board of Higher Education in the spring of 2018 and later the North Dakota Legislature, with the athletic department having thoughts of breaking ground in the ensuing two years.
That didn’t happen, although Larsen said there was substantial momentum last winter with a few major gifts. Then the pandemic hit.
“Everything shut down and it was not a good time to fundraise and ask people for money,” Larsen said.
That hesitancy started to subside late in the summer.
“Things started picking up again,” he said. “Some of those conversations that we already had, we were able to circle back to some of those donors and they were in a better place.”
Making the indoor facility even more of a priority is the deterioration of the indoor bubble over Dacotah Field, which was built in the fall of 2014 and slated to have a shelf life of 10 years.
It wasn’t meant to be a long-term permanent fixture and Larsen said it is approaching the end of its usefulness. It’s put up after the women’s soccer season in the fall, usually with issues, and taken down when the weather warms in the spring.
“The bubble is on its last legs,” Larsen said.
The hope is to get two more winters out of it, he said, and that will depend on how rough the weather is on the fabric. It’s endured tears and repairs while doors have been damaged from falling snow and ice.
“The last two winters have really been hard on it,” Larsen said.
The indoor football facility, which will be used by most NDSU sports, will be a long-term solution to a Division I program in the Upper Midwest. The University of North Dakota and South Dakota State have indoor practice facilities built for football, among other sports.
The initial proposal called for the facility to be built on the westernmost section of the three practice fields located south of the Sanford Health Athletic Complex. It’s not small.
The main practice area was targeted for 85,000 square feet, the operations area 25,000 square feet and a weight room consisting of 10,000 square feet.
Once fundraising is finished, the project will go to a final design phase followed by a construction bid process.
“We’re getting close,” Larsen said.