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Bison Sports Arena on the North Dakota State University campus in Fargo.

Bison Sports Arena renovation gains momentum

FARGO, N.D. - Instead of a basketball team raising the decibel level of the Bison Sports Arena, now there is a Bobcat wheeling around the floor or the sound of machinery tearing apart metal or concrete. The renovation of North Dakota State University's old fieldhouse in Fargo is in full gear.

While surveying what is mostly a demolition phase right now, project manager Darren Kruse of Gast Construction Inc. was asked if he would visualize the final product.

"I can and it's going to be a night and day difference," he said. "There's going to be a lot more energy in this place."

It's going to take plenty of energy by Gast to orchestrate a multitude of companies and workers to efficiently turn the building into the Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex, which has an estimated completion date of October of 2016. Kruse said the project is off to a bit of a slow start because of a later-than-planned departure to another facility by the NDSU administration and strength training equipment and a late thaw.

"We're knocking down walls like crazy," he said. "Now we're making a lot of headway."

The administration and most of the BSA staff have relocated to the former GEM Car office building across Interstate 29 just north of 12th Avenue North. Athletic training, equipment services, wrestling and strength and conditioning relocated to what once was a Sun Mart Foods on 19th Avenue North adjacent to CVS Pharmacy.

Women's basketball moved to the Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse, and the Bison ticket office set up shop at the Fargodome.

It's a big project for Gast, which recently completed two middle schools in West Fargo and the Offutt School of Business at Concordia College. The company has been around since the early 1940s first starting with residential construction, but is now full force into the commercial side of it.

To make a comparison, turning the BSA into a Division I facility could also propel Gast into a Division I status of its own in the industry.

"I think it does give us a little more presence outside the tri-state area," Kruse said. "We're stoked to be a part of this project. It's something great to put on our resume and also put on my resume."

Gast has offices in Wahpeton and Fargo and is in its fourth generation of a family business.

"This is fantastic. This is big for us," Kruse said. "This is a great opportunity to be a part of the project for Bison athletics so we're excited to see how quick we can get it done."

So far, there have been no real surprises, he said. But workers have yet to dig up the swimming pool, where leaks have said to have happened over the years. Kruse said he's also curious to see how the concrete looks under the second floor weight training floor.

Many of the materials - concrete, steel and wood - are being recycled. A large vacuum-like machine sits on the northeast corner of the building pulling rock off of the roof.

Work on the basketball practice facility on the southwest side of the building is expected to start next week. The concrete floor under the old tartan surface and running track looked surprisingly in good shape, but the entire floor will be demolished and dug down four to five feet.

For now, the main floor is a maze of piles of busted-up concrete and old metal in all shapes and sizes.

"At times it's a rat race," Kruse said. "But we have fantastic people in the company. It takes a lot of support staff, and we're just trying to organize it as best we can."