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NDSU men’s basketball to christen SHAC against Arkansas State

The east side of the Sanford Health Athletic Complex adjacent to North University Drive is nearing completion with the project on task for a fall opening. (FNS file photo)

FARGO — The fundraising and construction project that has been a decade in the making is now reality. The official grand opening date for the Sanford Health Athletic Complex will be Nov. 11 when North Dakota State hosts Arkansas State in men's basketball.

“We’ll have some exhibition games prior, but in terms of pomp and circumstance, that will be the first game,” said athletic director Matt Larsen.

That’s about all Larsen would say about the big day, adding marketing personnel are working with Scheels and Sanford Health “to make sure it will be opened up the right way.”

Scheels and Sanford are two of the prime donors in the $41 million project, that Larsen said with “soft costs” like finance fees and equipment, the final price tag will end up being closer to $50 million. The extra costs are not a required portion of the $41 million in construction costs approved by the North Dakota state Board of Higher Education. All funds are externally raised.

The NDSU administration, coaches, sports medicine and strength and conditioning staff are moving into the complex starting July 18. The administration and coaches have been working out of a building in Fargo’s industrial park while sports medicine and the strength staff have occupied space to the north of the Fargodome at what once was Stamart Foods.

“It’s exciting, since Day 1 I’ve been on campus it’s been such a big part of everything we’ve been doing,” Larsen said. “There are still a lot of things to do before the grand opening, but the first game will be in there.”

Certainly, the Bison ticket office has a lot of matters to deal with. It’s been a whirlwind three years starting with planning the move from the old Bison Sports Arena to Scheels Arena in south Fargo, where the Bison basketball teams have played the last two seasons. There’s pressure in accompanying major donors from their premium seats at the BSA to similar seats at Scheels after all.

Now it’s time to move again.

“That’s definitely cropped up on us,” said Josh Hemingway, NDSU’s assistant athletic director in charge of the ticket operations. “The summer has flown by and we’re getting through football and all of a sudden it’s hitting us that we’re just a few months away from basketball season.”

There are still seating details at the Scheels Center (the stadium portion of the SHAC) to be worked out. NDSU announced the old orange and brown chairs in the upper concourse of the BSA will be replaced, which was considered one of the final pieces to the project.

“That will be huge from a comfort standpoint,” Hemingway said. “And it’s going to be visually appealing. It will look like a brand new arena.”

Because of that project and the fact the entire new lower bowl is close to completion, but not totally done, the exact capacity has yet to be determined. Hemingway estimates somewhere in the 5,500 range, which would be about 300 fewer than the original estimate a couple of years ago.

The number of season tickets available has yet to be determined and Hemingway said that will mainly be determined by the number of requests. The season ticket base last year for men’s basketball was 2,600.

“We’ll combine that with the current season ticket base and then come to a determination of how many season tickets,” he said. “Then we’ll also know if we’re going to cap it and, if we do, what number to cap it at.”

To help with the transition, NDSU posted a “frequently asked questions” link on its athletic website.

For instance, men’s and women’s basketball current season ticket holders and Team Maker booster club members will be notified in the next week via brochure the process for selecting their seats in the new arena. They will be notified in August of their designated appointment time, which entails a 10-minute window to be escorted into the arena and preview possible seats.

Men’s basketball season tickets are priced at $175 and require a donation to Team Makers while women’s basketball season tickets are $100 and do not require a Team Makers donation. The number of student seats, Hemingway said, will be about 900 — about the same as the old BSA.

Also, Larsen said a high-top table with bar stools will ring the perimeter of the concourse, although a decision hasn’t been made whether they will be sold as seats or just used as a standing-room area.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is what has kept everyone moving forward,” Hemingway said. “We’re seeing that this journey is almost over and it’s almost here.”

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