NDSU looks at possible football game at Target Field
FARGO—The next big thing for North Dakota State's football team might be a game at Target Field.
Athletic director Matt Larsen said Friday he is working with the Minnesota Twins on scheduling a Bison football game at the baseball stadium in downtown Minneapolis.
"It is all very preliminary," Larsen said. "There are still three or four approvals that we need, any one of which could sidetrack it."
Larsen said the chances of NDSU playing at Target Field are "probably 50-50." He said he should know for sure in the next month.
"The Twins are constantly exploring possible events for Target Field," Twins president Dave St. Peter said in a text message. "In recent years that exploration has included talk about potential college football games. More work to do on many fronts, but we look forward to ongoing discussions with NDSU."
The Twins have played in Target Field since 2010. It seats nearly 40,000 for baseball, but has not played host to a football game.
The biggest challenge, Larsen said, would be configuring a football field in the stadium, which was built specifically for baseball. Player safety could be an issue if the sidelines of the football field came too close to the walls of the stadium. There needs to be enough room, also, for players, coaches, support staff and equipment.
"Just all the stuff that goes with a football game as opposed to a baseball game. That would be a potential deal-breaker, fitting a football field into the stadium," Larsen said. "We have to take a look at what the dimensions of that would potentially look like."
St. Peter told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2013 that there are a couple of options.
"We would work with a couple of configurations," St. Peter said. "One would run down the middle of the field, the other would be from left field to right field."
Larsen stressed that any potential game at Target Field would have to work logistically for both NDSU and the Twins.
"There are a lot of things that could make this a non-starter," he said.
The Major League Baseball regular season runs into early October, so the Twins would have to be on the road for any Bison game scheduled prior to that. Target Field's playing surface is grass, so if a game happened during the baseball season the Twins would have to be willing to allow their field to get torn up by a football game. Any game the Bison play at Target Field would likely come off their home schedule, so they would need to make sure the contest generates appropriate revenue. The Twins, too, would need a slice of that pie.
Larsen said the earliest the game could happen would be 2018 because the Bison have just one open date in 2017 and "we're getting close to filling that." He would not speculate on possible opponents because he wants to make sure the game is going to happen before moving ahead with anything else.
Some possible scenarios can be erased, however.
The opponent will not be the University of North Dakota in 2019, currently scheduled for the Fargodome on Sept. 7 of that year. Sources told me many feel that is a game that needs to be played in North Dakota. Larsen confirmed UND would not be the opponent.
It won't be the University of Minnesota, even if the Gophers were willing to schedule NDSU after losing to the Bison in 2007 and 2011. The Big Ten conference has told its members to not schedule teams from the Football Championship Subdivision, the second level of Division I.
And it's not likely to be an FBS opponent of any kind, given the Bison's success against the bigger schools. NDSU defeated highly-ranked Iowa last weekend, its sixth straight victory over an FBS team.
"After what happened last Saturday, scheduling an FBS team is probably not going to happen," Larsen said.
In the end, the opponent is probably less important than the venue. The NDSU Alumni Foundation web site lists the Twin Cities metro area as having the second-largest base of NDSU graduates behind Fargo-Moorhead. A game at Target Field could sell out regardless of who the Bison play.