« So Many Opinions, So Little Time

Could the roof be raised on the Fargodome? A group is exploring the possibility

by Mike McFeely

A group of North Dakota State football boosters is informally looking at adding more seats to the Fargodome. Former Dome authority member, Fargo city commissioner and Bison football player Dave Piepkorn says it is a long-term vison that, at the least, needs to be explored.

Piepkorn says a Fargo engineer who is a Bison fan is looking at the feasibility of raising the roof and adding more seats, possibly a second deck. He stresses it is not an official study, only an informal move among a handful of NDSU fans.

"It is very informal," Piepkorn said.

"If anything happened in 10 years, that would be fast," Piepkorn said. "But it's worth looking at."

(Photo credit Global Spectrum)

No. 1, of course, would be money. Dome general manager Rob Sobolik said structural engineers have already looked at a major renovation of the dome to add more seats and the cost could be as high as $150 million or more.

Raising the roof would also raise the ire of the Federal Aviation Administration. Located across 19th Ave. North from Hector International Airport, the dome is smack dab in the middle of flight patterns for incoming and outgoing planes. "The question would be: How high can we raise the roof without running into problems?" Piepkorn said.

Also, the support beams for the roof are currently located inside the building in the four corners along the concourse. To raise the roof and add another deck, the support beams would have to moved outside.

"Is it possible?" asked Sobolik. "Anything's possible, I suppose. But it's going to cost $125-plus million or $150-plus million and you'd have to shut down the building for two years. If you're going to spend that kind of money, TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis was built for about $245 million. That's a 50,000-seat, outdoor college football stadium. So why not just build a new stadium?"

NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor said he's heard of people looking at possibilities for the future of the dome, but nothing is official.

"The cost of doing something along the lines of what they are talking about would be hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. But if they want to look at it and come back and tell me what they find, I'll listen to them."

Piepkorn said NDSU is leaving money on the table because people who've become wealthy in the western part of the state because of the oil boom want to donate money and buy season tickets, but can't because the season tickets are sold out. The Bison averaged 18,622 for nine game last year at the dome. 

NDSU is the three-time champion in the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly called NCAA Division I-AA, but Piepkorn said the landscape of college football is changing and NDSU should be ready when it happens. It is expected that the top powerful conferences like the Southeastern Conference, the Big 10 and the Big 12 will split off and form their own division. 

(Photo credit: Fargodome)

That would leave the rest of the Division I football teams, including the Bison, in a second tier. Piepkorn believes NDSU should have a larger stadium when that happens.

There is another scenario that would be more likely to add a handful of seats to the dome. If the Fargodome Authority decides to locate an exhibition hall or convention center adjacent to the dome, that would allow a renovation of the dome's south end 

that could add a club level for pricier ticket-holders. It would add between 350-500 seats and open up other seats in the lower bowl, Sobolik said.

 Follow on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO