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Fargodome targeting date for new football turf

FARGO -- Estimates for replacing the turf at the Fargodome came in a little higher than anticipated, but it appears the project is on target to be completed by the fall of 2012.

AstroTurf pegged its "GameDay 3D" synthetic system at $2.7 million and its "Pure Grass" nylon turf at $2.85 million, according to the Fargo Dome Authority Building Committee. Both are considered significantly cushier than the current turf and similar to the popular FieldTurf that stadiums have installed across the country.

The cost also includes widening the turf storage pit below the south end zone to accommodate the new product, said Fargodome general manager Rob Sobolik. Funds for the project would come from the dome's surplus fund, which is currently at about $30 million, Sobolik said.

That would mean North Dakota State football, the dome's main tenant, would have only one year left on the existing surface. The turf was originally slated to be replaced in the 2015 capital budget, but Sobolik said technological advances in new surfaces make it feasible to replace it earlier.

Plus, he said, "the existing turf is nearing the end of its useful life."

"By 2012 the need is there," said committee member Darrell Vanyo. "I'm kind of confident in the process so far so I'm not going to be negative about it."

The Building Committee is also exploring sponsorship possibilities for the new turf, a contract that could range between $1 million and $1.5 million over a 10- to 12-year period. The logo representation on the surface has yet to be determined.

"If we get a big donor, that makes it even more attractive to do it," Vanyo said. "It's good-looking stuff, that's for sure."

The existing turf, called "Magic Carpet" because it can be put down and taken up in a timely fashion, was installed in 2002. Sobolik said the North Dakota High School Activities Association and the Minnesota State High School League have contacted the dome about the status of the new turf. Both states have playoff games in the facility.

Estimates in 2009 put the turf replacement at somewhere around $2 million. That did not include widening of the pit and an upgrade in the mechanical system because of the increased weight of new turf.

Sobolik said the new lighting project is in the final design stages and bids are expected to be forthcoming. The hope, he said, is for it to be completed by this fall.

Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.