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City Hall forum focuses on proposed DSU stadium facility

DICKINSON - The design and construction plans of the proposed Badlands Activity Center were the topic of discussion Thursday at a City Hall forum.

Kevin Thompson, the director of Dickinson State University's alumni association and foundation, kicked off the meeting with a presentation outlining the necessity for the BAC, which would be built on the site of the school's existing stadium. The facility would include a football field, enclosed and outdoor seating, locker rooms, 16,000 square feet of indoor multipurpose space and a track.

Thompson said Whitney Stadium is about 40 years old and in disrepair. He gave a list of its woes which include a leaky roof, cracking and shifting concrete in the bleachers, narrow hallways, an inadequate number of restrooms, exposed electrical wiring, a lack of wheelchair seating, a buckling track and poor field drainage.

"It's in need of desperate repair," Thompson said.

The project's lead architect, Andrew Barnard, gave an update on the design of the BAC. The blueprints are still in the conceptual stages, said Barnard, the vice president of the Denver-based Sink Combs Dethlefs.

Barnard walked the crowd of nearly 20 people through a preliminary design of the project. He said he intends for the BAC to retain much of the current stadium's ambiance but with the addition of several amenities.

"The feel is OK, but a lot of the creature comforts...really don't exist," Barnard said.

For fans, such comforts would include indoor club seating, a team store, more bathrooms, improved concession service, a bigger parking lot and better crowd flow, Barnard said. In its current iteration, the BAC would have a capacity of 2,750 in open seating and 500 to 600 in the club level, Thompson said.

For athletes, there would be locker rooms, a trainer room, team meeting space, an upgraded track and a field covered with synthetic turf, Barnard said. He also highlighted the facility's concourse which could be used to host banquets and other events.

Keith Fernsler, a retired DSU sociology professor, asked if the admission prices to games would go up once the BAC was built. Thompson firmly said they would not.

City Commissioner Rhonda Dukart, who attended the meeting as a member of the public, asked Barnard if he could shed any light on the project's timeline. Barnard said he could not give any sort of projection of when construction would start or finish.

Barnard said he expects the BAC would have a longer lifespan and would be more structurally sound than Whitney Stadium. He said the new structure would be designed to minimize the number of load-bearing interior walls, so that redesigns would be possible.

Barnard said during his visit to Dickinson he plans to meet with representatives from M.A. Mortenson Co., a Minneapolis-based firm lined up to construct the facility. They have not met previously and from their discussions here, Barnard said he expects a clearer picture of the facility to emerge.

"We really have to put our heads together with the construction guys," Barnard said.

Thompson said the estimated cost of the BAC is $16 million. So far, the school has raised $8 million from private donors. The city of Dickinson has discussed contributing around $5 million or $6 million to the project, he said.

Members of the City Commission have talked about using sales tax revenue to help fund the project. Commissioners have voted to put an amendment to the city's half-percent sales tax on the June 10 ballot. If approved by voters, the sales tax revenue could be spent on projects such as the BAC. Currently, the tax can only be used for the construction, repairs and operation of the West River Community Center; street, water and sewer expenses; and property tax reduction.

This forum series deals strictly with the design and construction of the BAC, said Thursday's moderator, Larue Roth. Roth is the executive director of the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce.

Despite the set parameters of the discussion, a person at the meeting brought up the sales tax issue, saying she supported more putting more money toward academics and lowering tuition. She declined to give her name.

"For our tax dollars to be sunk there is not our wish," she said referring to the BAC.

Similar forums are scheduled for today at 7:30 a.m. and noon in City Hall. For more information, contact (701) 483-2004.