Herald editorial board
During a speech at a local Rotary Club, UND football coach Bubba Schweigert praised the university's indoor practice facility, saying it has added to the team's productivity and practice time during the early stages of the season.
The building generally is known as High Performance Center Phase 1. The second phase hasn't yet begun, but it's time.
UND has shown all the signs of pushing its football program to a higher level, beginning with the move to Division I in 2008 and reaching a zenith in 2016 with an appearance in the playoffs. In 2017, President Mark Kennedy formed the Gameday Experience Committee and tasked it with improving fan experiences at the games.
Yet locker rooms, meeting spaces and offices at old Memorial Stadium are terribly outdated. It's so bad that Schweigert worries UND may lose its ability to recruit the best athletes from the region.
"Nowadays, kids are not impressed with Wrigley Field or Fenway Park," he said at Rotary. "They are big into what is new, fancy and comfortable."
Two years from now, UND officially will join the Missouri Valley Conference, reuniting with traditional rivals North Dakota State, South Dakota State and the University of South Dakota. As UND continues its on-field rise in Division I, it simply has not kept up with those rivals in off-field amenities.
For example, SDSU recently spent more than $100 million on a complete stadium renovation, along with construction of an indoor practice facility and athlete center next door. At USD, the aged DakotaDome is in a $26.3 million renovation project.
Consider a top football recruit from, say, Omaha. As he comes north for campus visits, he may stop in Vermillion, Brookings, Fargo and Grand Forks on the same trip. On those rival campuses, he'll experience new buildings, offices and locker rooms. At UND, he'll see cramped, dank meeting rooms and heating units that barely work.
Deferred maintenance costs at UND already are an albatross around the school's neck. That's why it's best to raze the buildings and sell properties - such as Ray Richards Golf Course - that cannot easily be supported or those that do not serve a modern purpose. Funds instead should be used to modernize areas that need it most.
HPC1 was paid for with nearly $20 million in private funds. The second phase, a $35 million project, would include offices and locker rooms for football and track, a strength/conditioning area, an athlete academic center and sports medicine space.
It's important not just for the football program, but also because it would be used to relocate other athletics employees who eventually will be displaced by a proposed science, technology, engineering and math facility in what is now Hyslop Sports Center.
Schweigert said HPC2 is "not a want. It's a need."
We agree. If UND wants to keep up with its football neighbors, HPC2 is necessary.