Special election could decide Fargodome expansion plans

August 24, 2023

FARGO (KFGO) – Nearly 35 years after Fargodome’s construction was approved, city residents will likely be asked to vote on whether to fund a ‘Reimagined Fargodome.’

At an informational meeting Tuesday, Fargodome General Manager Rob Sobolik laid out plans to remodel the existing facility and add a 90,000 square-foot convention center.

The total cost for the project would run between $116 million and $140 million.

Renovations are expected to cost around $85 million. They include increasing handicapped accessible seating from 43 to 112 seats with the same number of companion seats, adding 134 women’s and 57 men’s restrooms, more concession stands, circulation space, elevators, and storage.

The convention center, which would attach to the south east corner of the dome, would include a 45,000 square foot exhibition hall, more restrooms, and a catering kitchen. Estimated cost for the convention center is around $46 million.

Funding for the project would come from $30 million in Fargodome reserves, a 1/4% sales tax increase, and 3% lodging tax increase. The tax rate would last for 20 years and generate over $12 million in the first year alone.

While the sales tax increase would put Fargo’s rate to 7.75%, leaders said that still falls below West Fargo and Moorhead’s rates. The lodging tax, however, would make Fargo’s the highest in the state.

The Fargodome Authority and City Commission will each vote on the project in the coming weeks. If they approve funding, it will go to a special election vote by residents on Dec. 5.

Talk of a convention center at Fargodome has been around for some time. FM Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Charley Johnson said right now, Fargo cannot compete with the closest convention center competitors for large conventions and the city has lost a lot of business because of that.

The dome has been criticized in the past after large events, like concerts and Bison football games, for not being able to adequately accommodate long lines at restrooms and concession stands.

Sobolik said the space limitations actually lead to less revenue per person at larger events. For example, in February of 2020, Jason Aldeen brought 9,000 concert goers who spent $18 per person. In January of 2019, Pink performed in front of 20,000 people who spent $10 each – nearly half as much. Sobolik said this is due to the length of time people spent in long lines.

By renovating the facility, leaders said Fargodome will be better able to accommodate the large crowds and add more variety to concessions.