Another football season is underway and I would like to share with you what I think are the best places to watch college or high school football in North Dakota. Having been to my share of locales in 33 years of sports writing, I have my favorites and not-so-favorites. But we'll keep it positive. Everybody’s list would be different, and if you’d like, chime in after this posting on Facebook and Twitter and when sharing your photos this season on Instagram or other social media sites, be sure to use the tag #NDLegendary.
1. The Hank
Whitney Stadium had a charm. The Hank (Dickinson’s Henry Biesiot Activity Center, now named after former Dickinson State Coach Hank Biesiot) is just a great place for high school and college football. From the seating to the press box, it’s well done with easy access in and out and throughout during games. The Blue Hawks are southwest North Dakota’s team and fans flock from the small towns to games. It gets the nod because it’s outdoors, and the people create a family atmosphere. It's also home to Dickinson High School and Dickinson Trinity.
2. The Fargodome
A three-time defending national champion can even make the big barn a fun place to watch the game. True, you need field glasses in the upper reaches to get a close view, but have you ever been to a large stadium where you don’t? No one needed field glasses to watch Jim Kleinsasser’s dash. The only complaint here: If you have to use the elevator from the press box, bring an overnight bag.
3. Bismarck Community Bowl
Another nice outdoor facility, this one on the bluffs above the Missouri River. Counting the grassy knoll that surrounds the field, there is seating for many tens of thousands should Alabama and LSU ever play there. The new press box and suites don't do a lot for the average spectator in the stands, but improved concessions and other amenities will. And because of its size, you don’t have to sit next to anyone you don’t want to, which is important given it also is home to three high schools. And the view is great.
4. Alerus Center
A cozy indoor facility, which is OK considering it’s in what is traditionally the coldest part of the state (Grand Forks). The University of North Dakota football team is comfortable on its home turf. Folks may grumble a little when the weather is nice outside the steel spaceship-looking structure, but the frowns turn upside down when it’s below zero outside.
5. Duane Carlson Stadium
Hey, I like panoramic views, even if they include the setting sun for part of the game. Minot always has competitive teams so the game is usually good and it’s fun looking out at the lights over the Souris River valley after the sun goes down.
6. Killdeer High School
Hey, what can I say? I got an up close look at the grass by getting my faced crushed into it for two years. Let’s say the ’79 team set the gears in motion that ultimately led to a championship. Later this fall, the old grass will be replaced by a new artificial turf field. I guess is was coming, but as Hank used to say, "If a cow can't eat it, I don't want to play on it."
7. Friday Night’s Lights
If you’re traveling around outside the larger cities on a Friday night and see the bright lights, just pull in. Chances are Linton or Harvey or Velva or Watford City or (fill in the blanks) is playing and that’s where you’ll find locals and visitors alike gathered around the field.