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Jeff Kolpack, Published September 16 2013

Downtown streets to close down starting Thursday morning for GameDay prep

FARGO – There have been plenty of three-hour movies at the Fargo Theatre over the years. Just not one with 5 million viewers.

But that’s what will happen Saturday when ESPN’s College GameDay pregame football show will air from the corner of Broadway and Third Avenue North – with the Fargo Theatre as its primary backdrop.

The decision upset some Bison fans who would prefer the spotlight shine on North Dakota State University’s campus.

But staging the show will also upset traffic downtown, starting Thursday.

Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel said city officials are preparing for a fan base similar to the annual Street Fair, which draws thousands of people each day.

“We’re going to ask everybody to be patient with us,” Vettel said. “This is something extraordinary for the city and pretty groundbreaking.”

Vettel said beginning 6 a.m. Thursday, Broadway will be closed from Second Avenue North to Fourth Avenue North. Also, Third Avenue North will be closed from Broadway to Fifth Street North, and Fifth Street North will be closed from Third Avenue to Fourth Avenue, he said.

Starting at 6 a.m. Saturday, fans can begin entering the tailgating area behind the GameDay set. The area will be on Broadway from Second Avenue to Fourth Avenue, but it may expand if needed, Vettel said.

“The tough part of this is we have no idea how many people are going to show up,” Vettel said, “but we recognize in knowing Bison fans that they’ll show up en masse. We’ll prepare for the worst and expect the best.”

Vettel said he anticipates people lining up to get into an area behind the ESPN set and in front of the Fargo Theatre about 5 a.m. The show airs from 8 to 11 a.m.

“It won’t be an easy place to get around,” he said.

Taylor said NDSU is looking into the possibility of some sort of shuttle service from the Fargodome to downtown Fargo. The tailgating lots are scheduled to open earlier than normal at 7 a.m.

ESPN crews will arrive Wednesday to begin constructing the set. Nobody associated with NDSU or the city of Fargo was sure when the on-air talent was scheduled to arrive.

Mike Hahn, president and CEO of the Downtown Community Partnership, said he didn’t expect three days of hairy traffic downtown to hurt any businesses, adding some may try to take advantage of a captive audience on Saturday.

“Anything green and gold will be hot sellers in downtown Fargo,” he said.

Vettel said signs noting the road closures will be posted Wednesday afternoon and night.

Forum reporters Cali Owings and Emily Welker contributed to this report.

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia