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Eric Peterson, Published January 02 2013

Ballpark expects boisterous crowd

FRISCO, Texas – Dr Pepper Ballpark has hosted a large screaming fan base before, hosting a mini-concert for the boy band “One Direction” last spring.

Another rabid following will take over the minor league baseball stadium Friday night thanks to North Dakota State’s football game with Sam Houston State (Texas). The park is set to host the Bison Pep Fest and Party on the eve of Saturday’s Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game.

“The ‘One Direction’ was probably a higher octave of screaming,” joked Frisco RoughRiders President Scott Sonju, referring to the predominately young female fan base for the English-based pop band. “This one will probably be a pretty boisterous crowd and loud.”

Sonju also made a guarantee Wednesday evening that North Dakota State fans won’t have to worry about a beer shortage, which happened at the event last season at a different venue.

“We heard there was a shortage of adult beverages last year,” Sonju said. “I have given my guarantee there will not be a shortage here at Dr Pepper Ballpark. There will be plenty of beverages for all, certainly within legal limit.”

The Pep Fest was held in a banquet room at a Plano hotel last season. The crowd overflowed into the hallway and during one point in the evening, reportedly the party ran out of beer.

Ticket sales for the event were nearing 6,000 as of late Wednesday, according to the NDSU Alumni Association. Sonju said ticket sales will be capped at 8,000. An advance ticket cost $10 and also serves as a voucher for two items from the concession stand. Sonju said if tickets are still available on Friday, they can be purchased from 10 a.m. until the start of the event at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

“I think it’s fantastic there is so much interest in the school and so much pride with the Bison,” Sonju said. “We’re glad to be able to host this.”

Fans will not be allowed on the playing field. Dr Pepper Ballpark, which was completed in 2003, has 7,700 permanent seats and a concourse level that wraps all the way around the stadium. Sonju said 10 of the stadium’s more than 20 suites have been rented out for the event. A stage will be placed on the field in the home-plate area.

A number of party decks and plazas located around the stadium will be available to the public. There is also a small playground area in the stadium.

“This is certainly the biggest pep rally that we’ve had,” Sonju said.

Sonju said this is the largest event the stadium has hosted in January. The stadium is the home of the Texas Rangers Double-A affiliate and can hold more than 10,000 fans for baseball games, although an official sellout is 7,700.

“We are expecting 8,000,” Sonju said. “The pre-sales have gone very, very well. Hopefully, we will have some tickets available the day of.”

3rd Base Sports Bar and Grill, which is located a few blocks away from Dr Pepper Ballpark, is prepared for a large influx of Bison fans this weekend. General manager Robert Verich said the Saturday of last year’s FCS title game was memorable.

“It was all North Dakota State people. First, the Friday beat our biggest sales ever, and then Saturday dwarfed that,” Verich said of last year. “To this day, it’s our biggest single day ever.”

A Bison flag hangs on the wall at the sports bar. Verich said an NDSU fan gave it to him last season.

“I said, ‘Not only will I put it up, I will put it up in a place where everyone can always see it.’ ” Verich said. “It’s been up there ever since.”

Verich said the bar will also show the Minnesota Vikings-Green Bay Packers playoff game on Saturday night.

Maher Maso, the mayor of Frisco, said after last year he is not surprised a baseball park was needed to host the Bison Pep Fest.

“Last year we heard about how they travel, but you really don’t get a feel for it until you see it,” Maso said. “If it were up to me, I’d have y’all back every year.”

Frisco is a rapidly growing Dallas suburb with a population of around 130,000. Maso visited Fargo after last year’s title game and said Fargo is similar to Frisco.

“It’s a small community, it has a small-town feel to it,” Maso said. “I had the same feeling when I was up there.”

The weather had a similar feeling to Fargo on Wednesday with temperatures in the 30s.

“We’re working on bringing the temperature just up a bit by Friday night,” joked Tony Felker, the president of the Frisco Chamber of Commerce. “We are thrilled to have (Bison) fans back again. … We’ve tried to put it out to the local business community. They’re now prepared. They know the mascot, the colors, the way (Bison) fans travel.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513. Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com