NDSU athletics seeks approval for indoor bubble facility
FARGO — What for the longest time seemed like a mile away is now only a couple of steps from fruition. The North Dakota State athletic department will go before the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education on Friday seeking approval for an indoor bubble facility.
The school is seeking authorization for $380,000 that would cover Dacotah Field from late fall until spring. Built by Arizon Structures out of St. Louis, it is designed to go up and be taken down with a lifespan of 15 to 20 years.
NDSU still has to get a final construction estimate — the bid opening is scheduled for early June — but the athletic department has historically fared well with the approval process of privately funded projects. Athletic director Gene Taylor said more than $200,000 has been raised, with the Team Makers booster club also backing the project.
It will have all the mechanical and electrical amenities of heat and power. At 75 feet high, the air-supported structure will be big enough for a punter to kick a football or a baseball or softball player to take fly balls.
“Every sport will benefit,” Taylor said.
In football, for example, that means players doing 7-on-7 passing drills in the winter will no longer have to use the Bison Sports Arena. They wouldn’t be able to do it anyway next winter because of the BSA renovation. Moreover, it would maintain NDSU’s place in the college football facility arms race.
“It will help us a bunch in recruiting as far as being able to show a kid when he comes to campus in December and January that this is what we use when we’re indoors,” said NDSU head coach Chris Klieman. “Every school has it now.”
It will solve spring football issues when the weather is not cooperating and the Fargodome is booked.
Taylor said the technology of a bubble structure has improved in recent years, especially in the ease of putting it up and taking it down. The company says its structures can withstand 150 mph winds and snow accumulation of 50 pounds per square foot. Backup generators are included to ensure the inflation of the fabric, the company said.
“They’ve gotten so much more efficient,” Taylor said.
The plan is to put up the bubble after the NDSU women’s soccer season is completed, usually in October. Still to be determined is a storage facility for the structure, Taylor said.
“It gives us a spot that we haven’t had in the winter months for the kids to work their craft,” Klieman said.
Ditto for baseball and softball, which will both be able to replicate game situations in practice for the first time ever before the snow melts. That includes live pitching, hitting, baserunning and defensive plays.
“It’s no different than putting a dome on top of Newman,” said NDSU baseball coach Tod Brown, in reference to Newman Outdoor Field. “I think the two biggest impacts this will have will be with baseball and softball. We’ll be able to practice differently than we ever have before.”
NDSU will also on Friday be seeking “interim approval” from the university chancellor and the budget section of the North Dakota Legislature in event the project needs additional legislative authorization, according to the meeting agenda.
In the fundraising effort, Taylor said there are people on board who didn’t necessarily want to help with the BSA, but are willing to support the bubble.