NDSU begins first phase in building new indoor practice facility
FARGO — North Dakota State is taking the first step toward upping its game in the arms race of Division I football facilities. The budget and finance committee of the State Board of Education on Tuesday, May 15, approved a request to build a $37.2 million indoor practice facility.
It would be located on the westernmost practice field south of Sanford Health Athletic Complex and would be more than just a field with a roof. A proposal NDSU submitted to the State Board includes a separate weight room, locker rooms, sports medicine space, meeting locations and recruiting area.
The request for approval now goes to the full State Board for further consideration. If that hurdle clears, it then goes to the state Legislature for final approval.
“Today was the first step, but there are still a number of things to go through before this thing is a go,” said NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen.
Larsen reserved comment on any potential details of the project pending the completion of the approval process.
The main practice facility is targeted for 85,000 square feet, the operations area 25,000 square feet and the weight room 10,000 square feet. It would replace the portable bubble that is inflated over Dacotah Field in the winter months. NDSU’s bubble, which first was installed for winter 2015, originally was slated as a 10-year plan.
The facility also will be used by women’s soccer, men’s and women’s golf, baseball, softball and men’s and women’s track and field.
All funds will be privately raised through the NDSU Foundation and Alumni Association, according to the proposal. NDSU athletic projects in the past that were funded entirely through private donations had little trouble getting the OK from the state Legislature.
Construction is not slated to begin until funding has been secured, with the estimated project timeline slated between 18 and 24 months.
Indoor football practice facilities are popping up across FCS football. South Dakota State and the University of North Dakota recently built structures matching Youngstown State in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The University of North Dakota is joining the league in 2020.
Keeping up with those schools is a part of the reason for an indoor facility, Larsen said, but the biggest piece is having a place to train in the colder months.
“Given the climate that we’re in and being able to have the student-athletes train in an indoor space where they can simulate what they can do outside,” he said.
NDSU plays its games and sometimes practices at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome, but the dome’s constant booking of events makes practice dates hard to schedule for the Bison.