There's a good chance that Ratingen Strasse, a two-way street that is seeing an increasing amount of traffic related to the University of South Dakota, will soon be known as University Street.
The street, which runs along the east side of the USD campus, and serves as a major route between Highway 50 and Cherry Street, was renamed Ratingen Strasse in the early 1980s in recognition of Vermillion's sister city relationship with Ratingen, Germany.
That relationship remains strong to this day, evidenced by the musical entertainment provided by a youth orchestra from Ratingen last summer during Vermillion's sesquicentennial celebration, and exchange trips in recent years involving Vermillion citizens traveling to Germany, and Ratingen officials making stops in Vermillion.
Rich Van Den Hul, outgoing USD vice president for finance and administration at USD, told members of the city council at its noon meeting June 7 that USD is requesting that Ratingan Strasse be renamed University Street.
"This is about helping out students, in particular prospective students and their parents, find their way to our campus," he said. Renaming Ratingen Strasse to University Street, he said, "would get rid of some confusion that students sometime encounter as they make their way to the university."
For years, the street has served as a major route the DakotaDome and the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts on the campus. Ratingen, a north-south thoroughfare, is growing as a vital traffic link for the university as works continues at a nearly breakneck pace on USD's new wellness center, located right on Ratingen, and Coyote Village, the university's new student housing unit, which is nearby.
"We are increasingly wanting them (students) to come down Ratingen, particularly as we finish up the wellness center and the new suite-style housing, because those are really some great buildings, and the kinds of buildings that students are looking for when they come to the university," Van Den Hul said.
A simple action, like the renaming of a street, he noted, serves as an important factor in the overall plan to help USD recruit more students.
"We want to grow our student body in Vermillion by 1,000 to 2,000 students," Van Den Hul said. "That means a lot to this community. That means a lot to our academic disciplines."
Attracting more students will help the community grow, as the university hires more staff to accommodate their academic and campus needs.
"We're talking 100 to 200 faculty, plus all of the support staff, plus all of the dollars they turn over in the community," he said.
"I think the concern I've probably had from the beginning has been that we need some kind of presence of Ratingen in our community," Mayor Dan Christopherson said, "but it doesn't necessarily have to be that street. I think we've worked out some other options that would satisfy that requirement, and continue to have that sister city relationship working well."
In recent weeks, the Vermillion City Council asked city staff to contact, by letter, all owners of property along Ratingen Strasse to get their reaction to the possible renaming of the street.
"We haven't received a comment one way or the other," City Manager John Prescott said. "There's been no response from anyone as of today."
"In some informal discussions, including members of the council as well some of the people who have ties to Ratingen, were very favorable toward taking the pocket park down on the corner of Market and Main streets, and perhaps naming it Ratingen Plaza or something like said," Alderman Jack Powell said. "The people I talked to at first who were rather adamant about (not) changing the name of the street thought that would be a good idea."
When it comes time to take action, Alderman Howard Willson said the city council should also be presented the option of continuing the Ratingen name in some other part of the community.
"I think we also need to know, at the same time, what we are going to name Ratingen at the same time that we change the street name," he said. "I don't want to see this set aside and have us say that 'well, we are going to get to next week or next month or next year.' I'd like to see everything done at the same time."
Final action on this issue will be taken during a future city council meeting.