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Dave Kolpack, Associated Press, Published September 05 2013

UND breaks ground on new athletics training center

GRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota was breaking ground Thursday on a $13 million athletics facility that it hopes will help propel its football team to Division I playoff status and boost other sports programs.

The UND Athletics High Performance Center is designed as a training facility for all sports as well as a competition venue for track and field. Football will be its key tenant because it will allow the team to practice there during inclement weather.

"There are a lot of colleges around the country where this kind of facility has become very important for Division I programs to have," said Brian Faison, UND athletics director.

The 196,500-square-feet building has a regulation artificial football field, a separate linemen workout area, a 60-foot ceiling for punting and kicking, and videotaping towers.

Faison said the facility will be a "true game changer" for UND athletics.

"This facility, specifically for track and football, addresses a lot of critical needs, particularly with practice for the football team in the spring when the weather is difficult and our ability to train and host quality track meets" suffers, Faison said.

The center will have a 300-meter, eight-lane NCAA regulation track and seating for about 1,500 spectators. Also planned: a sports medicine and athletic training center; an academic center; class and meeting rooms; locker rooms and coaches' offices; a weight room and cardio training area; and a UND Hall of Fame lobby.

Robert Kelley, the UND president, said the new facility will be "an important asset for recruiting and retaining student athletes and for continuing UND's tradition of building nationally competitive teams."

The school received $9 million from Grand Forks-based Altru Health System and $1 million from Scheels, a regional sporting goods store based in Fargo, to help build the center.

Faison said he believes the new facility will have the same kind of "wow factor" as the $100 million Ralph Engelstad Arena for hockey and attached Betty Engelstad Sioux Center for basketball. That building has a large weight room and workout center, as well as amenities typical for professional teams.

UND recently finished its transition from NCAA Division II to Division I athletics, although the hockey team has been at the top level for many decades. The school's football team last year finished 5-6 a year ago, including a 3-5 record in its first year in the Big Sky Conference.

"I think we're on our way," Faison said of the football team. "We've seen significant progress. Obviously we're in a very competitive conference. But at the end of the day what gets you into the playoffs is wins."