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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 15 2011

Kolpack: The man behind the Fargodome loved to think big

Fargo - The only memories are the smell of cigars and the sound of poker chips hitting the table. It was Poker Night, at the Kolpack House and no kids were allowed in the basement.

The table is still with us, the rightful owner of the oldest son, a keepsake that is hanging out in Seattle.

When it came to dad’s stuff, the first-round draft choice was the table because, in retrospect, there must have been more stories going around that table than almost any other piece of furniture in Fargo.

Reason No. 1: Goose was there.

The guess is when Bob “Goose” Johnson left the table, he did so with all or nothing. He was a dreamer. He was a doer.

On Saturday, when Georgia Southern has the ball in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision semifinal at the Fargodome, and you’re standing up screaming like a maniac, give a little silent thanks to Goose.

He retired in 1996. He died in 2002. This is his dream.

“His dream is being fulfilled,” said Fargo Parks Superintendent Roger Gress.

Goose, who was Mr. Johnson to me, was the Fargo parks superintendent who always had a project or two on the plate. A lot of people had a hand in the construction of the Fargodome, but if you were to pin it on one guy, it would be Goose.

“He was pretty quiet about it,” said Ann Johnson, his widow. “One time he had heart surgery and was supposedly at home recuperating. I came home at noon to make lunch and I see all these tracks in the snow in the driveway.

“I asked him who was here. He said Roger Gress was here and I found out they were having meetings with the dome.”

In reality, there must have been some heavy-hitting conversations from the Framers of Fargo, whether it be at somebody’s house or around a poker table. These guys had a hand in the future, and the future is now.

It took 19 years to get to this Fargodome playoff point, but nobody is complaining. Ann said the dome was Bob’s favorite project.

“That was very exciting for him,” she said. “I’m so happy it came to be.”

Ann, who lives in the Detroit Lakes area, still goes to all the Bison football games. She then turned the interview on me.

“Are we going to do it?” she asked.

I will defer to the spirit of Goose on that one.


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia


Game information

When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Fargodome

TV: ESPNU/ESPN3

Radio: 790-AM, 101.9-FM