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Bison Sports Arena refurbishes bleachers: Fargo company decides to continue using local lumber for historic Bison Sports Arena bleachers

Workmen take apart the bleachers at the Bison Sports Arena as a $34 million renovation is underway on the North Dakota State University campus. The wood is being salvaged and sold for other purposes. Dave Wallis / Forum News Service

FARGO — Old bleachers from the Bison Sports Arena will get a new life, and could soon be available for North Dakota State University fans to purchase as benches, coffee tables or custom-designed products.

Last weekend, ICSS Design and Supply began salvaging the 20,000 or so square feet of wood bleachers made with southern yellow pine and Douglas fir that have offered a place to sit since the arena opened in 1970. The arena recently started a $41 million, two-year renovation project.

Seth Carlson, ICSS owner and founder, at first said he would sell about 90 percent of the lumber to a national company that would remill it and sell it as flooring to customers across the country.

But an article about the salvage process Monday in The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead that prompted dozens of phone calls and emails changed his mind, and Carlson agreed to instead sell the lumber to Fargo-based reclaimed wood company Grain Designs to keep it in the community.

“He realized there’s a huge demand for people who want individual boards or some type of Bison memorabilia from the wood,” said Blain Mikkonen, a co-founder of Grain Designs.

The company has a few ideas for unique furniture pieces that could be made out of the lumber, including coffee tables, benches or simple wall hangings, he said.

Mikkonen said Grain Designs is still determining how exactly it will use the lumber, and a lot will depend on what the local customers want.

The company is working with NDSU to secure licensing agreements that would allow it to market the memorabilia with NDSU’s official approval, he said.

But Grain Designs also prides itself on building custom orders, and Mikkonen said some of this lumber could be reserved for special orders from customers who want a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture, wall paneling or even a complete bar.

Some of the bleachers could still be sold for use as flooring in a Fargo building, he said, though that detail is being handled by Carlson and ICSS Design and Supply.

“We have offered to buy the remainder just so that we can keep as much of it local as possible,” Mikkonen said.

Even though he’s not sure yet how all of the wood will be used, he said there’s no doubt there will be high demand for getting a piece — or several planks — of this part of local history.

“The Bison are loud and proud, and the herd is really thundering,” Mikkonen said. “It’s a great time for a significant piece of Bison history that really tells a story of not only what went on in the Bison Sports Arena but in this era of Bison sports.”

For more information or to inquire about purchasing some of the reclaimed wood, visit www.graindesigns or call (701) 730-5821.

Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson has been a Forum reporter since 2012 and previously wrote for the Grand Forks Herald.

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