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Official Review by Matt Ward, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Winters in Fargo, North Dakota are notoriously long, dark, cold, and brutally windy, but that doesn’t stop the devoted fans of NDSU from coming out to support their beloved Bison basketball team. Sporting their green and yellow, Bison fans escape the cold by staggering into the Bison Sports Arena, a multi-use sports complex outfitted for numerous sports including basketball and track.
The arena first opened for the 1970-71 season, and despite a few technological upgrades, it has remained fairly unchanged. Many details throughout the arena make the age very noticeable, a fact that does not escape the attention of the NDSU athletic department staff. They are on the verge of securing $32 million in private donations in order to improve the Bison Sports Arena, among other athletic buildings around campus.
Until the renovations are complete, Bison fans are left to cope with an arena that struggles to identify itself as a basketball arena, instead of a multi-use sports complex.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The Bison Sports Arena offers your normal concession food choices, and not much more. They offer hot dogs, popcorn, and candy as their mainstays. However they do offer brats in both regular and Cajun flavor. The Cajun brat was a little soggy and not overly spicy, but fairly tasty nonetheless.
If you find your Cajun brat too spicy, the concession stand offers Pepsi products to alleviate the burn, however, no alcohol is served in the arena. Drinks, like the food options are all very inexpensive. Most items at the main concession stand are priced between $2 and $4.
The crowd favorite appears to be the Dippin' Dots stand that is set up right before tip-off. The lines swelled at their stand during halftime, so if you are craving some ice cream, get down there quickly.
Since the Bison Sports Arena is a multi-sports complex, they struggle providing the intimate fan experience like some arenas can offer. With the indoor track encompassing the court, the building is much larger than need be for basketball. The staff has gone to great lengths to make the arena not feel as cavernous by shutting off the lights behind the bleachers. The staff also installed large banners that provide a better sense of a closed off feeling, but it is still hard to forget that you are inside an indoor track.
The majority of seats throughout the arena are wooden bleachers; they do have some seats with backs. Among the sections with backs on the seats, some do have obstructed-views due to support beams.
Most of the atmosphere in the Bison Sports Arena is provided by the school's pep band. They are small in number but large in sound. NDSU also has a large contingent of cheerleaders that are involved throughout the entire game.
Most of the technological features in the arena were updated in 2005. They have two video boards that face each side of the court, and two digital scoreboards that are located at each end of the court. The sound system however left much to be desired. It was quiet, hard to hear, and not very clear.
The Bison Sports Arena is positioned right in the heart of the NDSU campus. The campus is located in a mostly residential section of Fargo; however there are several bars and restaurants around campus that you can visit before or after the game. The resounding favorite seems to be The Turf Restaurant & Bar located about a mile from the arena. At The Turf, you can pick up a huge 32 ounce tap beer for less than five dollars, which goes great when coupled with their jalapeńo cheese nuggets.
There are also many fast food restaurants around too, including McDonalds, Taco Bell, Subway and Jimmy Johns.
The fans are very knowledgeable and friendly in Fargo. They are more than willing to help you out by providing advice on where to go, what to see, and what to do while in town.
The fans are not overly loud while in their arena, but that could be due to the fact that there were very few students in attendance during my most recent visit because it was a holiday weekend. Bison fans do have a tradition of standing until their beloved Bison make their first basket which provides a strong sense of solidarity between the fans and their team.
There are a number of parking lots around the arena and few, if any, charge fees to park. Once inside the arena, there is plenty of space to walk around without bumping into people, so much space in fact that many kids are running around, and some even throw a football around.
In the arena, there are only a couple restrooms, but they are well-kept, clean, and stay relatively empty except during halftime.
Due to the fact that the concourse, restrooms, concessions, and playing surface are all on the same level, the arena is very handicap accessible and allows ease of movement throughout.
Tickets to a Bison basketball game will run you between $10-$15 for general admission adult's ticket and $5 for youth tickets. When you combine the price of the ticket, free parking, and inexpensive concession stands, a family of four can go to a Bison basketball for about the same price, if not cheaper than, a trip to the movies. Taking in a Bison basketball game is a great way to spend a cold winter's night in Fargo without breaking the bank.
One hidden gem of the Bison Sports Arena is the Bison Hall of Fame that is hidden underneath the bleachers. It hosts a number of the NDSU trophies that they have won throughout the years. The Bison Hall of Fame also houses old field turf from one of the endzones of the Fargodome, which is the home of the famed Bison football team. The hall of fame is a definite must-see if you visit the Bison Sports Arena.
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