Football season gets under way this week and somebody asked me what I thought were the best places to watch college or high school football in North Dakota. Having been to my share of locales in 32 years of sports writing, I thought about it for a few seconds and came up with a list. 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 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 just well done with easy access in and out and throughout during games. And even though the Blue Hawks have struggled of late, they are still 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.
2. The Fargodome
A two-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 here. The new press box and suites (when they are done) won’t do a lot for the average spectator, but improving 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 here having won 61 of 73 games 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 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.
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. Linton, by the way, was the subject of a recent book called Prairie Blitz, about three Plains teams along Highway 83 from Texas to North Dakota. About that book, it could have been any small town anywhere in North Dakota.