School board, USD reach agreement

The Vermillion School Board approved a comprehensive written agreement with the University of South Dakota that will allow for at least two more seasons of Tanager high school football to be played in the DakotaDome.

It  will also provide the school district expanded access and the opportunity to hold additional athletic activities in the DakotaDome.

"There's been a great deal of refinement on the contract," Superintendent Mark Froke told school board members. "I believe I've taken all of the issues that you've presented, and presented them to the university. By the nature of negotiations, you don't always get everything that you ask for, but you as a board, we as a district, have done very well in our recent discussions as far as development of this contract."

The agreement becomes effective July 1, and ends on June 30, 2012. It may be extended for one additional year upon written agreement from both the school district and the university. A goal of this short-term contract, put into writing, is to hopefully negotiate a long-term agreement between the public school and USD.

Those negotiations will begin during the second year of the contract approved Monday, with the goal of entering a long-term contract effective July 2012.

"I think this needs to be looked at as a comprehensive facility use agreement," Froke said, "and not simply just a Dome agreement. We're getting more than just the football games at the Dome, which give rationale for the increased lease costs.

"It's a two-year agreement with a third year option upon mutual agreement," he said.

The option to extend the agreement to a third year is important, said Mark Bottolfson, school board president. "We want to see if this new agreement is going to work, and give it some time. It will give us some time to get together to work towards a long-term agreement, or if we're not happy with the way it works, it will give us a third year to plan on doing something on our own. It gives both sides some breathing room."

"It really gives us the opportunity to get our feet underneath us, and move in either direction without having to commit to a huge dollar amount this year," said Matt Lavin, school board member.

"We may also need to understand, especially for events that haven't been part of this agreement before, such as JV games, that we have to get the scheduling to work, and that may not happen tomorrow," Bottolfson said. "It might take a year or two to get things rolling smoothly."

During the first year of the agreement, the school district will compensate USD $35,000, due May 1, 2011. That amount will increase the next year to $36,500, due May 1, 2012. Should the school board agree to extend the agreement for a third year, it would pay USD $37,500 by May 1, 2013.

Under the agreement, the school district will have access to the DakotaDome for all home varsity football games, including post season. The university will have priority in the event that a Coyote football game must be scheduled for a Friday night.

Subject to availability, USD will also allow the school district to use the DakotaDome for non-varsity football games on Mondays or when the Dome is available; up to two track events per year; up to two varsity basketball games per year; and varsity football, track and high school band practice during inclement weather.

The school district will also be given access to the swimming pool. The Vermillion Area Swim Team (VAST) is not included as part of this school district/university agreement.

The school district will be able to use the university's tennis courts for practice sessions and home tennis matches, subject to availability. It will also have access to Slagle Hall, once renovation of the building is complete, for high school commencement exercises.

The school district may also request additional use of the DakotaDome or other university facilities, such as the Muenster University Center, subject to their availability.

In exchange, the school district will allow the university access to its all-weather track for practice by university track teams, and access to its high school gymnasium for exhibition basketball games, subject to availability.

The high school gym will also be available for the Native American Awareness Week annual spring Wacipi for the basic rental fee spelled out in school district policy. The university may request access to other school district facilities on an as needed basis, subject to availability.

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