The changes at Minot’s largest indoor facility are remarkable, quite a sight to behold, even though there’s still a bit of work to be done. Workers are in the process of putting the finishing touches on a dramatic renovation project inside the Minot State University dome.
New seating, red to match MSU’s athletic team colors, is just one of the immediately noticeable improvements. They even offer a bit more room than the old chairs and deploying the seating areas in the lower bowl of the dome has been made much easier than before.
“Now the seats just fold down as the rows are pulled back,” said Andy Carter, MSU director of athletics. “The man hours required are greatly reduced, which is huge because we’ve lost a couple of full-time positions the last couple of years.”
Reducing the time for transforming the dome from the athletic facility utilized by MSU students during the day to the arena and seating needed for various sports and other activities was an important goal of the renovation project. Another big change, one spectators at the dome will appreciate, is the convenient access to seating.
Prior to the renovation, spectators entering the dome from the parking lot on the north side had to walk down three flights of stairs to floor level, then walk up again into the seating area. Now seating can be accessed by simply walking down from the second floor level, eliminating congestion on the main floor and making the facility much more user friendly for spectators.
“That was obviously a major focus of this project, egress and regress,” said Carter. “That is all part of the entertainment value. Can I get to my seat easy? Can I get to the concession stand or the restroom easily? That was all part of the process.”
The wide aisles in the seating arena means a few less seats in the building but it still remains the largest arena in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference of which Minot State is a member.
“There was some give and take,” explained Carter. “The seats are a lot more comfortable than the old seats and we are still over that 9,000 mark, which is really important.”
The lower bowl of the dome has enough seating to accommodate any Minot State athletic event. The large bleacher sections of seating, which are generally used only for special events such as state tournaments, remain on the upper level of the dome.
Carter says the second level of the dome, which was previously dominated by a narrow enclosed hallway, is expected to become a focal point. A counter has been installed along the entire east side of the second floor so spectators will be able to sit on stools, watch game action and have the convenience of a countertop to place their soft drinks and concessions.
“We are envisioning some sort of club level at some point, but we are really not ready for that yet,” remarked Carter. “The whole concept is we want the second floor to be the new place to be on gameday.”
Curious followers of MSU Beaver athletics and others interested in the renovation project have checked in on the progress from time to time, some even through organized tours hosted by Carter or other Minot State employees.
“To say the reaction to this project has been positive would be an understatement,” said Carter. “Those who see it can’t even believe it. People who have been coming to this building for 30 years have their eyes just light up. It’s a different facility.”
Some finishing touches were still being attended to by construction workers in the dome on Friday. Although most of the major work has been completed, it will still take some time until the project is entirely finished. Included in the tasks yet to be done is some painting of railings and testing of the retractable seating sections. Carter says an open house is being planned but no date has yet been set.
“We have a community event here in early September and a volleyball match later on in September,” said Carter. “By then it should be pretty much completed.”
The dome already boasts the largest indoor video board in NCAA Division II. Now, with the addition of a vastly improved seating area and other visitor friendly enhancements, the dome is well situated to remain a community focal point for the foreseeable future.
“This is not just a facility for Minot State Beaver athletics,” emphasized Carter. “It’s a community gathering place whether it is Special Olympics, pow wows, State B tournaments or whatever. It’s just a great place on our campus.”