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Kolpack: Making the Great Escape from Bison Sports Arena

FARGO — It was just three weeks ago when the front office staff in the North Dakota State athletic department made their Great Escape. They made it out of the Bison Sports Arena without a concussion from tumbling concrete from the ceiling.

For a while, it wasn’t looking promising. The thuds and pounding from the second floor weight-training facility became a part of everyday life for all who worked below.

It was like that line from the movie “Blues Brothers” when Jake asked Elwood how often the train goes by. “So often you don’t even notice,” was the response.

“It was interesting. We all got used to it,” said Amy Ruley, senior associate athletic director for development. “People would come in and cringe and duck, and we’re standing there like nothing is wrong.”

But thanks to a total renovation of the BSA, there will be no more cringing or ducking. Well, for the most part anyway. Earlier this week, as a gentle reminder from the BSA, a forklift from an adjacent warehouse banged against the wall of NDSU’s new temporary office, causing a brief stir.

It’s situated across Interstate 29 in the Fargo industrial park. To get there, you take 12th Avenue North to 39th Street North and take a right between Grainger Inc. industrial supply and UPS buildings.

When pulling up to the NDSU building, to the left is parking for John Deere and to the right is parking for NDSU. Sharing the Bison space in the building’s rear is the Magnum Companies warehouse. From his second-floor office, media relations director Jeff Schwartz has a window to the warehouse floor.

But it’s home and it’s working out just fine.

“It’s better than what we had to be honest,” said Troy Goergen, senior associate athletic director.

For instance, people can have private phone conversations now without the thud of weights falling. There is more space. The décor is 2000, not 1970s.

About the only negative is location; the staff won’t be part of the hub of campus life. Administrative staff often got to know athletes just by being around them.

“The hustle and bustle of the campus is something a lot of us enjoy,” Goergen said.

The department is segregated. Football is still at the Fargodome, where the NDSU ticket office set up temporary shop. Women’s basketball moved to Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse. Track and field and baseball have space at their facilities. Athletic training, equipment, strength and conditioning and wrestling are at the former Sunmart building.

“It will be important for us to maintain the camaraderie that we have,” Goergen said. “We’re a close-knit staff, and we don’t want to lose that. This will force us to do more things as a staff.”

The fact none of the staff working at the BSA quit their jobs is a testament that they must really, really like their jobs and are treated well. It was as if the administrative assistants were one step away from wearing crash helmets at work.

“They’re unbelievable in terms of their patience and understanding,” said athletic director Gene Taylor. “I don’t know if I would be able to do it every day as many days as they had to do it.”

The offices at the new Sanford Health Athletic Complex will be on the second floor with the weight training facility on the first floor. Nobody will miss the reverse setup.

Even if it became second nature to them.

“People would come into the office and a 250-pound clean bar would drop — they would flinch,” Goergen said. “The staff wouldn’t bat an eye. It’s something we became immune to.”

Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.