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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 08 2013

Bison track athletes welcome opening of new facility

Fargo - When the doors finally opened to the Shelly Ellig Indoor Track and Field Facility after Christmas, the North Dakota State track and field teams felt like they just got a vehicle. It smells like a new car, anyway.

The $5 million project opened for business this week, an eight-lane track and all the amenities for field events.

“It’s something we’ve been talking about and dreaming about for 10 years,” said women’s head coach Ryun Godfrey. “It’s finally here.”

On Tuesday, long jumpers were working out. Hammer throwers were working on technique amidst a large cage, and a high jumper was working on steps. There was plenty of room for everybody.

“It looks bigger inside than from the outside,” said men’s head coach Don Larson.

Nobody will miss basketballs flying onto the track from the NDSU players practicing in the Bison Sports Arena.

The new track and field facility is night and day from the BSA days.

“This group of athletes would train in a barn,” Brost said. “They are just that competitive and would train anywhere, so we feel incredibly grateful. You don’t feel like you’re competing for space anymore.”

Bleachers still need to be installed. Godfrey said future hopes include video boards that would also show every field event. The stands will be retractable, leaving five more sprinting lanes for practice – making it 13 total on the east straightaway.

It means sprinting or hurdling practice wouldn’t interfere with runners using the oval track.

In the Summit League, NDSU is one of three schools that boasts a competitive indoor track and field facility. Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne recently opened a new building as part of its student wellness project, and the University of South Dakota has its DakotaDome.

“The reaction of the athletes when they came in here after Christmas was priceless,” Godfrey said. “I think this will keep us on the path of success.”

The beauty of the Ellig building is its accessibility. No longer does the track and field program have to schedule around basketball games or wrestling duals. It became even a bigger deal this year when the Summit went to mirror scheduling in basketball, meaning the BSA is in use almost every weekend in January and February.

The project is part of the overall renovation of the BSA, which is still in the process of raising the final pieces of the puzzle.

NDSU hosts the Bison Classic on Friday and Saturday. As an example of what the new building does for competition, Godfrey said the University of Minnesota will bring a team to Fargo.

“If we didn’t have this, they wouldn’t come,” he said.

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