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Forum News Service North Dakota State University basketball players Liz Kenna and A.J. Jacobson share a smile during ground breaking ceremonies Tuesday for the Sanford Health Athletic Complex Scheels Center.

New athletic complex has multiple benefits

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The sound of dirt being moved and walls being constructed was noticeable Tuesday as people gathered on the artificial turf at Dacotah Field.

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“It’s been a lot of talk, a lot of talk, a lot of talk,” said North Dakota State men’s basketball player A.J. Jacobson with a smile.

“But finally, you can see the progress, you can see stuff happening, you can see the action. I can’t even explain how excited I am to have the opportunity to play in this building.”

Jacobson was one of the speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Sanford Health Athletic Complex, expected to be completed in October 2016.

The Scheels Center, which will seat more than 5,700 fans for basketball, will be one of the main pieces to the $41 million project.

“We’ve got coaches who have recruited and graduated athletes that were promised this facility and now it is materially, actually happening,” said NDSU president Dean Bresciani. “This will be the largest collection of indoor venues between the Twin Cities and Seattle.”

Jacobson has multiple memories of the old Bison Sports Arena. He played in the building many times as a prep standout at Fargo Shanley. Pat (Smykowski) Jacobson, his mom, was a star women’s basketball player for the Bison in the 1980s.

A.J. Jacobson grew up an NDSU fan, watching many basketball games from Section T, Row 3. He was a redshirt for the Bison men’s team last season.

“The BSA was a little rough around the edges,” Jacobson said. “This is definitely a big deal for those kids that we’re going to start recruiting.”

A few of the projects main sponsors, outgoing athletic director Gene Taylor, Bresciani and women’s basketball player Liz Keena were also among the people to step to the podium and address the groundbreaking crowd.

It was also revealed during the ceremony that a “prominent area” of the Sanford Health Athletic Complex would be named after Taylor and his wife, Cathy. Taylor has been the school’s athletic director the past 13 years and guided NDSU through the transition from Division II to Division I athletics.

Taylor is leaving NDSU at the end of the month to take a job at the University of Iowa.

“It’s special. I obviously got a lot of strong feelings for this institution,” Taylor said of part of the facility being named in his honor. “Every time I drive by, I really get excited and goose bumps to see it go from on a piece of paper to see walls being formed.”

The Nodak Mutual Insurance Company Basketball Training Facility is a practice venue that will feature two courts and is located on the southwest corner of the existing arena. An addition on the west side will have a human-performance facilities and an academic center for athletes.

The Shelly Ellig Indoor Track and Field Facility, which is also a part of the project, opened in December 2012.

Head men’s basketball coach Dave Richman and head women’s basketball coach Maren Walseth were among the Bison coaches at the ceremony.

Richman and Walseth agreed the new facility will be a recruiting plus.

“We still want to get the right kids,” Richman said. “We don’t want kids who are coming here just for bricks and mortar. At the same point, if we’re on the right kids, and that can be the little piece to push us over the edge, we’re going to use that to our advantage.”

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Eric Peterson
Peterson covers small college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.

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