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Jeff Kolpack, Published June 26 2010

State Board of Higher Ed approves Bison Sports Arena renovation

What has been a fuzzy project for years is finally coming into focus. The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education unanimously approved the renovation of the Bison Sports Arena, leaving athletic director Gene Taylor with a sense of optimism.

Taylor, in fact, said he hopes construction can begin next spring provided the funding is in place.

The $34.1 million price tag, all privately raised, includes a separate $5 million indoor track and field facility to be built west of the new artificial turf practice field.

Taylor said there are no signed financial commitments, but he did indicate that day may not be far away.

“The interest level I would say makes us very close,” he said.

The state approval was seen as a big step for the school, especially in the wake of some recent projects that have come into question. Jim Miller, the executive director of the NDSU Development Foundation who represented the school at the meeting, said there was no opposition from board members.

The foundation and the athletic department are combining fundraising forces for the project, Miller said.

“I think everybody is ready to get this project off and running,” Miller said.

The approved budget will be included in the budget requests that will go before the 2011 Legislature, Miller said. If approved, then NDSU would be required to go back to the state board and report on the progress of the project.

The renovation is scheduled for three phases, according to a state board capital project document. Taylor said he doesn’t anticipate the BSA will be closed for construction during basketball season and the total construction timeline is slated for between 18 and 24 months.

Taylor said a general concept has been designed and now that the state has approved the project, the lead architecture firm of T.L Stroh of Fargo can move forward with details.

It is expected to seat around 5,700.

Sanford Health-MeritCare has long been rumored to be a major benefactor, but Kevin Lampe, Sanford vice president in charge of orthopedic and sports medicine, declined to discuss the status of the BSA renovation.

NDSU has already raised $6.9 million. Some sort of remodel has been on Taylor’s desk ever since he got the job in 2001. The facility was built in 1971.

“I feel as good about it now as I ever have,” he said.

Miller said the next step will be a series of meetings between the athletic department, NDSU administration and the NDSU Foundation “to make sure we’re all on the same page.”

Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the WDAY Golf Show, 10 a.m. to noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia

Forum reporter Patrick Springer contributed to this report