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Schools of thought: Could West Fargo use a new athletic facility?

Mark Sahli

This month’s column is strongly influenced by the time of year, smell in the air and the calendar flip. It is August and nearly September and with that comes that smell of North Dakota State University Bison football and football as a whole everywhere.

West Fargo, much like the rest of the area, has a large contingency of Bison fans but also boasts its own successes in football. The Packers football program has a strong tradition of success and now Sheyenne High School is on the move.

Eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota have many schools with strong football programs and traditions. For nearly three or four years now, I have been thinking about a facility that is right here in West Fargo, and could be the equivalent of the MDU Resources Community Bowl in Bismarck. The facility already exists for the most part and is located on the Red River Valley Fairgrounds.

The school of thought is to set a climate-friendly sprint or artificial turf field on the infield of the current race track. The track banking will serve as a natural wind barrier and the rest is already in place.

Bleachers are elevated with ample capacity seating. Lighting and concession areas already exist, and there is great parking. The location can accommodate teams from all over the region.

This facility could serve as a home to many sports teams, contests and practices and events: youth football, high school football, college football, youth soccer, high school soccer, professional soccer, lacrosse, college rugby, spring softball and baseball. The possibilities are nearly endless.

With proper scheduling, the fairgrounds facility wouldn’t take away from the Packer and Mustang fields and home games. Our teams might play a game there as a neutral or playoff game in the event of poor field conditions on their fields.

The vision is to make this a multiuse destination and experience. Weather in our area is always a factor, and in order to get all of the activities in, many outdoor facilities are going to outdoor turf, and demands on those facilities are high and unavailable.

The Friday Night Light Facility can be a solution for those demands and could bring a whole new market to our already growing community. What is your school of thought?

Sahli is a longtime West Fargo resident, parent, coach, outdoor enthusiast and former columnist for NDSU Bison athletics in various publications. He can be reached at news@westfargopioneer.com for comments and ideas.

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