By Turner Blaufuss
North Dakota State College of Science took a step forward to improve its football program with numerous improvements and additions to Earl “Skip” Bute Alumni Stadium.
The stadium’s grand opening is at 1:30 p.m. Friday and some of the improvements include state-of-the-art locker rooms, equipment space, an athletic trainer’s room, new concessions area, an extension of the NDSCS bookstore and a Cat Backer room for the booster club. The college put $1.5 million toward the project.
“We’re certainly enjoying it. I think there’s a pride issue with it that we have such a long, strong history at NDSCS. It kind of encompasses all that and it’s great to have that atmosphere,” said NDSCS Athletic Director Stu Engen. “It’s not only an NDSCS thing – it’s a community thing.”
Some of the new lockers are open for sponsorship and the improved equipment also reflects the football team’s storied history. Past players’ names and years spent in a Wildcat uniform are displayed on the lockers of their former numbers.
“We just put tape up on them and not all the spots are filled out yet. They’ll recognize the number of the student athlete, what they played and the years they participated on the bottom,” Engen said. “They look very sharp and do a good job of acknowledging some of our former football players.”
The revamped facility moved the locker rooms out from under the bleachers and Engen was happy with the other adjustments made to free up space beneath the stands.
“It’s just concrete everywhere and has a nice open space. The old locker rooms were underneath those things and that made it a little more congested,” Engen said. “That walking space really opens things up. At halftime of the game or before the game you have a nice place to socialize.”
NDSCS was happy with the new and improved stadium because, along with the Wildcats, Wahpeton Public Schools and Circle of Nations also use the enhanced facility.
“It’s an overall great venue for our students, our campus and for the community and so many people utilize it,” Engen said. “It’s going to be something wonderful to share for years to come.”
The improvements also mark a step forward for the football program who are in their second year of non-scholarship competition.
“I think it shows people our commitment to our football program,” Engen said. “We transitioned into Minnesota and going into the non-scholarship league I think some people thought we didn’t care. It was the absolute opposite, because we wanted to maintain our football program. This administration put $1.5 million into those locker rooms and these new facilities.”
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