FARGO — After years of talking, planning and fundraising, North Dakota State has high hopes of breaking ground on a new indoor football facility this spring — a landmark move for a program that has continually built its resume in its Division I lifespan.
A formal announcement has yet to be finalized, but it appears obvious the school is close to finishing the project.
“That is our intention,” athletic director Matt Larsen said, on starting construction this spring.
The state Board of Higher Education in 2018 gave approval to a $37.2 million project, which will be located south of the Sanford Health Athletic Complex. It is slated to be a three-phase process beginning with the main indoor practice space.
It will be yet another piece to NDSU’s Division I puzzle. It won't be small, either; the peak of the roof is expected to dwarf the SHAC in appearance.
The timeline of Division I-type facilities began with the construction of a new office complex in the Fargodome not long after Craig Bohl was hired as head coach in 2003. That was followed with the renovation of the locker room complex and training facilities in the lower level of the dome. More meeting space and a large team meeting room was included.
One of the three practice fields was outfitted with an artificial surface, a project that will look miniscule to the new indoor facility. It in essence is part of a facility arm’s race in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. South Dakota State and the University of North Dakota have indoor practice buildings. South Dakota and Northern Iowa are revamping their outdoor practice areas with both schools also having dome stadiums.
“That’s definitely a piece of it,” Larsen said. “But more important, the reason why we need this is the climate dictates it more than anything else. If we were in a southern climate, it would not be as big of a priority. The way the FCS is structured with playoffs late into November and December, we need a place to train. And beyond football, for all the other outdoor sports.”
NDSU is able to use Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome for football practice, but only when the venue is not being used for other events like trade shows and concerts. The school has come a long way since the football team had to practice in the old golf bubble in south Fargo during the destructive 2009 Red River spring flood.
“I guess you’re never done,” Larsen said of facilities, “but I’ll feel really good to have the indoor facility complete and operational.”
The timing of the football facility is important in that the bubble over Dacotah Field is nearing the end of its lifespan. Built in 2014, it was slated to last 10 years and even that is being challenged with constant repair issues in recent years.