FARGO — North Dakota State University wants to raise up to $45 million to replace a decades-old theater with a performing arts center.

The State Board of Higher Education Budget and Finance Committee unanimously recommended on Tuesday, Sept. 21, that the university be allowed to begin fundraising for the project. The proposal will go to the full board, which is slated to review the request at its Sept. 30 meeting.

The project aims to replace Askanase Hall, according to documents made public by the North Dakota University System. Built in 1966 at 1497 12th Ave. N., Askanase houses the theater arts department and the Little Country Theater, a performing arts program that began in 1914. About $385,000 would go toward demolishing Askanase.

The building has several amenities that need to be updated. It has multiple levels but doesn’t have an elevator, which means it is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It also lacks a fire sprinkler system; has a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system that is “beyond its useful life;” aging plumbing; an electrical system that needs to be replaced; and an auditorium that requires major updates, according to NDUS documents.

The building also contains asbestos that needs to be removed.

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The theater department is growing, so NDSU needs a space that can accommodate that growth, the documents said. While plans have not been drawn up for the project, NDUS documents said officials would analyze the project for practice rooms, labs, classrooms and spaces for rehearsal, storage, technology, graduates and performance.

“All of these are vital for the program and will allow for future growth of the premier performing arts program in the region,” the document said. “Heirs of the building’s namesake are fully supportive of the project.”

NDSU said it didn’t want to comment on the project until the higher education board approves fundraising efforts. It’s expected the building will be funded mostly, if not entirely, by private donations, according to the NDUS document.

It's also possible the building will cost less than $45 million, President Dean Bresciani said during the committee meeting.

The project won’t be bid out for construction until fundraising is far enough along, according to the proposal. It’s unclear when the school could break ground on the performing arts center, but the project should take 18 to 24 months to complete once construction begins, documents said.

Also on Tuesday, the committee unanimously recommended approval to the full board for a $2.4 million partial renovation project to Ladd Hall. The building that houses offices and laboratories for the chemistry and biochemistry department is in need of several updates, including repurposing areas for office space and other needs, NDSU officials said.

Chemistry and biochemistry will be moved to Sugihara Hall once that is finished, which could happen in 2023. The agricultural and biosystems engineering department will then move in to Ladd Hall, documents said.

Renovations could start early next year and finish in the fall of 2022.