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Jeff Kolpack, Published July 28 2013

North Dakota State nears pivotal point with Bison Sports Arena renovation project

FARGO – All the funding has yet to be secured and there is no timetable for putting a shovel in the ground. But the fact North Dakota State officials are talking about construction bids is a sign the renovation of the Bison Sports Arena is on the verge of another important step.

The architectural drawings and documents are currently being reviewed for accuracy. When that is finished, it’s possible bids will go through the three- to five-week advertisement process.

“We’re at a point that when the documents are done, we can be close enough to say, while it’s out to bid, we can finish raising the money,” said athletic director Gene Taylor. “It’s that close.”

Well, relatively close. The project was approved for $35.4 million by the state Legislature and Taylor said the department has about $3 million yet to raise. What the construction bid process will reveal to NDSU officials is the actual cost of the project.

If bids come in over $35.4 million, it will be back to the drawing board. If the bids come in less, the project becomes that much closer to reality.

“That’s why we want the documents 100 percent accurate so bidders are encouraged to bid,” Taylor said. “It’s a big project, a lot of money, and we want as many bidders as possible on this project as we can.”

If the bid process is a go, NDSU will submit an advertisement in the legal section of The Forum, trade publications and builders’ exchanges, said Mike Ellingson, NDSU’s director of facilities management.

Most projects are advertised for three weeks, he said. The bigger ones, like the BSA, may be five weeks.

The facility will be renamed the Sanford Health Athletic Complex with the main basketball venue being known as the Scheels Center. Sanford Health jump-started the project with a $10 million gift in 2010. The Scheels family gave $5 million later that year.

When the bids come back, NDSU will have a week to review them, Taylor said.

A chunk of the project, the Shelly Ellig Indoor Track and Field Facility, has already been completed. That was $5 million.

Besides the basketball arena, the project includes a basketball practice facility, new weight training center, locker rooms and office space.

“That step of getting it out to bid would be huge if we’re close enough where everybody feels comfortable,” Taylor said. “Then we’ll go ahead and put it out. That would be a big step for us.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia