Football: A Change of Seasons in North Dakota
Fall is a change of seasons in North Dakota in more ways than one. Meteorogically speaking, it's a colorful transition period between summer and winter. In the sports world, summer baseball gives way to the big daddy - football. In North Dakota, that means teams from NCAA Football Championship Subdvision title-holder North Dakota State to junior colleges and high schools put on weekly shows throughout the state. Drive around the prairie on any Friday night and the brightest lights in town are likely to be those illuminating the football field. On Saturdays when the NDSU Bison play at home, the Fargodome becomes the ninth-largest city in North Dakota when around 18,000 fans fill the building.
Here is a list of some of the top football venues in the state, in no particular order:
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.
A six-time national champion can make even 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? The exploits of Carson Wentz and Jim Kleinsasser were clear, even from the cheap seats.
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 (joke). 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 to most 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.
5. Duane Carlson Stadium
Panoramic views here are great, even if they include the setting sun in your eyes 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. 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.