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Jeff Kolpack, Published November 23 2010

Bison football: Dome moving ahead to solve turf future

The Fargodome is doing the hurry-up offense on new artificial turf.

A project that was scheduled for replacement in 2015 as part of its master plan has an outside shot of being installed by next fall with a more realistic goal of 2012, said Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn, who represents the city on the dome finance committee.

It would be financed from the dome’s reserve fund, currently at $29 million, Piepkorn said, with NDSU kicking in a portion of the estimated $3 million replacement bill.

“Even though there is enough money in the dome fund, we would want NDSU to participate in paying for the turf,” Piepkorn said. “That’s the fair thing.”

Agreed, said NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor, who said the school may look at a potential sponsor for the turf.

“Those are some of the things we have to work through,” he said. “(The dome) is willing to pay for a majority of that and us pay some.”

The current “Magic Carpet” made by AstroTurf was installed in 2002. But it’s quickly becoming outdated to the point that Taylor said the number of companies making turf shoes for that type of surface is dwindling to almost nothing.

He also questions if it would hurt future potential post-season possibilities, like the one on Saturday when NDSU hosts Robert Morris University in the first round of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

“Because this is the old style now, it could, and I stress ‘could,’ affect us if we want to keep hosting playoffs,” he said. “I think some schools would come in and say we can’t get shoes for that. We need to be cautious of the fact we’re one of the few schools in the country to have this style of turf.”

NDSU has the only lightly-padded artificial turf in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Two schools have natural grass and the other six have the modern spongy turfs that use infill products like ground-up tires for padding.

Rob Sobolik, the general manager of the dome, said the facility is currently looking hard at estimates.

The new turf would be an indoor one-piece roll-out version of the Sprinturf NDSU has on its practice field. It’s a relatively new technology – Northern Michigan was one of the first to install Magic Carpet II in its indoor football stadium two years ago.

The dome needs the roll-up type turf, which is stored in a large pit below the south end zone, because of the quick turnaround times needed for different events. For instance, the “Fill the Dome” event on the concrete dome floor that ends today will be followed in short order by NDSU football practice.

“That turf is very hard compared to the new stuff,” Piepkorn said. “And you have to stay competitive for recruiting purposes, kind of like keeping up with the Joneses.”

That’s not all the dome has in mind for projects, Piepkorn said. He said new a lighting system is expected to be completed in the next year and plans call for building a separate restroom/hospitality facility in the tailgating section west of the dome. Tailgating has blossomed in the last several years at Bison football games.

“Maybe we’ll have a little area for a band to play,” Piepkorn said. “And another thing is power for all those big campers and busses. There are a lot of things you could do, but you have to gradually spend money. You have to continually look at things.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 9-11 a.m. 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