Pierre Direct Line

Pierre Direct Line By Rep. Judy Clark One of the bills coming before the Legislature is a bill I sponsored � House Bill 1147 "An act to authorize the construction of a new roof on the DakotaDome at The University of South Dakota."

We are fortunate to persuade the chair of the House Appropriations Committee to be the prime sponsor of this important bill.

The DakotaDome is a resource for all of South Dakota. Our high school and college teams would be unable to play statewide and regional football, basketball, and volleyball championships if we didn't have the Dome.

Our high school and college marching bands and choirs would have a hard time finding a large enough space to display their talents and compete, if we didn't have the Dome.

When the Dome is leased to vendors for shows like the recent farm show, South Dakota benefits from visitors from surrounding states. The last Farm Show was estimated to have attracted 25,000 visitors. That's a lot of restaurant meals, gas, gifts, motel rooms and sales tax!

And all of these activities are in addition to the daily use of the Dome facilities by the university and community.

But the Dome roof is nearly 25 years old. While it was once state of the art, that's no longer the case. No one builds stadium roofs held up by air pressure anymore � for very good reasons.

Safety. A roof held up by air cannot accumulate any weight of snow on it because of the danger of collapse. To keep the snow or ice off, maintenance personnel must climb onto the roof and clear it by hand. Although no one has been seriously hurt yet, it's always a fearful possibility. At the least it takes university employees away from other important jobs during bad weather.

Energy costs. The energy costs of heating and cooling the Dome are tremendous. Imagine trying to cool or heat a giant tent! The university estimates savings of about $239,785 a year in energy costs with a solid roof. And that amount is figured in today's low energy costs. If energy costs increase in the future, the savings are even greater.

Lack of flexibility. Air pressure roofs limit the use of space. Vendors with large equipment, such as tractors and combines, must enter an air lock one at a time. This increases the time vendors must spend setting up, increases their costs and ultimately limits the growth of shows. And the air roof has no cross beams for lights and advertising, further limiting the type of productions that can be staged there.

For these reasons USD is asking the Legislature for authority to finance bonds to build a new permanent roof for the Dome. The total cost of a permanent, insulated roof, is about $11,500,000. Of this total, $6,500,000 will be financed by bonds, paid off from student fees, gate receipts and energy savings. Gifts and pledges from the USD Foundation and other benefactors will raise the rest.

I've gone into some detail about the benefits and costs of a new roof for the Dome because there are often misconceptions about how projects like this are financed. I believe a new Dome roof will provide substantial economic benefits to our community without any money from our state general tax fund.

Please call me if you have any questions about this or any bills coming before the Legislature. The number in Pierre is 605-773-3851 or home 605-624-9795.

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