Have a Gate City Game Day football section story going on Saturday on the arm’s race of the Missouri Valley Football Conference facilities. South Dakota State is now the leader of the pack with the $65 million stadium and the $32 million indoor practice facility. That will be NDSU’s next bricks and mortar task: a new indoor practice venue. The bubble that goes over Dacotah Field in the winter and spring is nice and it works, but it’s not a long-term solution and was never meant to be one.
They’re certainly talking and planning about it on the second floor of the SHAC administrative offices, but the project is not far enough along for anybody to go public. One complex matter NDSU has to deal with that other schools don’t; the State Board of Higher Education has to approve all building projects and all the ducks have to be in a row before NDSU can approach the state committee.
This is not a part of the story so much, but here are my rankings of the Missouri Valley Football Conference facilities, which include everything from stadium to practice facilities to surface.
- SDSU. Hands down the leader. Granted, outdoor football is not a lot of fun late in the fall, but the big boosters have an indoor seat in the club level and suites. And the indoor facility is huge.
- Youngstown State. Like the dome, Stambaugh Stadium is starting to age, but it still looks very big and cool. The DeBartolo club room is the best in the conference and the university is planning to build a new press box on the east side of the stadium and turn the current press box into more room for boosters. The Penguins also have an indoor practice facility, which gives them the edge on NDSU.
- NDSU. The Fargodome is still the FCS leader in game day atmosphere, but the place is also aging after 25 years. There is talk that has legs of adding a club level in the southeast corner above the concourse, which would help swank up the place. Dome general manager Rob Sobolik is hoping the Fargo Dome Authority will get to the cost estimating stage by January.
- Illinois State. The Redbirds put $26 million into new digs on the east side, which includes a club room, press box and stands. Saturday will be the Media Blog’s first trip to Hancock Stadium since it was renovated, so looking forward to seeing what ISU has done.
- Southern Illinois. The Salukis built their new stadium in 2010 and it’s really nice. The problem right now is probably perception, the team hasn’t been that good and the fans have not filled it — with the exception of the Solar Eclipse watch party this summer.
- Missouri State. Plaster Field added a recent renovation to its east side including a patio for students. Problem is the students don’t really care and haven’t showed up. It’s still an impressive-looking facility from the adjacent road and has some eye appeal.
- Northern Iowa. The UNI-Dome is getting old with 1970s style colored seats, but at least the university put much-needed new turf in this year.
- South Dakota. See UNI-Dome on aging structure. It’s a Division II dome in a Division I FCS setting and the school knows it. There’s been talk of doing something funky with the interior, at the least it needs to get the indoor track out of there and into a building of its own.
- Western Illinois. A decent place for FCS football, but like Missouri State nobody is showing up. And the Leathernecks have had a good team the last two years.
- Indiana State. Let’s just say the Sycamores need to blow this place up, find a big donor, combine that with city funds and build another one downtown near Larry Bird’s statue.