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Published September 16, 2013, 03:59 PM

ESPN, NDSU defend downtown Fargo location for College GameDay broadcast

FARGO - The ESPN College GameDay crew is heading downtown. North Dakota State announced Monday the popular pre-game college football show will air from the corner of Third Avenue North and Broadway, which is more commonly known as the U.S. Bank Plaza area.

By: Jeff Kolpack, Forum News Service, INFORUM, Forum News Service

FARGO - The ESPN College GameDay crew is heading downtown. North Dakota State announced Monday the popular pre-game college football show will air from the corner of Third Avenue North and Broadway, which is more commonly known as the U.S. Bank Plaza area.

The off-campus location quickly became a hot topic in Fargo after Bison fans were expecting the show to originate near the Fargodome.

ESPN and NDSU officials defended the network's decision Monday afternoon.

"Downtown Fargo will create the best backdrop. It's like a postcard. It's like 'Downtown, USA'," said Lee Fitting, senior coordinating producer for ESPN College GameDay in a statement. "Will be great for America to get a glimpse of this. We rarely do shows by a stadium anymore. It just doesn't create the best backdrop. I'd like to think people will come, even though it requires a little effort. It will be worth it."

NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor also released the following statement on the school's athletic website, gobison.com:

"Bison Nation, we're aware of your concern regarding the location for ESPN College GameDay. One of the things I admire most about Bison fans is the passion you have for NDSU. If any fans in the country can make this the best ESPN College GameDay ever, it's you. This is an opportunity for the entire country to see how incredible Bison fans are. We need every fan downtown, making noise, and wearing gold. You've made Frisco our home away from home and you can do the same thing with downtown Fargo.

Rest assured ESPN is 100% committed to highlighting every aspect of our incredible game day atmosphere, including the tailgating scene and the pregame team introduction. ESPN will also provide outstanding coverage of our university to a national audience. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we need all of Bison Nation to embrace.

We've adjusted reserved tailgate lots to open at 7 a.m. and general admission tailgating at 7:30 a.m. to accommodate the location. We're working with the city officials to explore transportation options from campus to downtown. NDSU students will have an opportunity to attend College GameDay before going back to the Fargodome to stand in line.

Our team and fans have never backed down from a challenge and we don't expect that to change now. It'll be more than worth it to sacrifice three hours of tailgating to head downtown, support local businesses and provide the best welcome ESPN College GameDay has ever received. You are the strength of the Herd!"

All hands will be on deck all week, said Fargo Police Lt. Joel Vettel. Parking restrictions will begin as soon as Wednesday, he said, and he said city officials are preparing for a large fan base to watch the show, which runs from 8-11 a.m.

“We’re going to ask everybody to be patient with us,” Vettel said. “This is something extraordinary for the city and pretty groundbreaking.”

Taylor toured several potential sites with a pre-production crew from ESPN on Sunday, including sites on campus and a couple near the Fargodome. Taylor said the downtown site with the Fargo Theatre marquee in the background excited the ESPN folks.

“They said they’re going to promote North Dakota State and the athletic program but they saw that site and thought it was the perfect venue,” Taylor said.

The last sports celebrity event using the Fargo Theatre was a Billy Crystal and Bob Costas presentation on the movie "*61". This time, it will be Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Lee Corso.

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