Just sit back: DakotaDome getting new permanent seats

The 32-year-old DakotaDome is undergoing yet another facelift.

The familiar fiberglass seats that had been inside the DakotaDome in Vermillion since the building was opened in 1979 are being replaced with new red chairback seats in most sections. New red seat brackets, pictured here, were installed last week and the remaining seats will be put in place this week. (Jeremy Hoeck/P&D)

In an effort to replace the aging and cracking seats inside the facility at the University of South Dakota, new red seats will continue to be installed this week in plenty of time for the football season this fall.

The long-awaited endeavor, which has been on the university radar for the past seven years, will feature mostly chairback seats, according to David Herbster, USD senior associate athletic director.

When we did a lot of the renovations in the Dome a few years ago, the seat phase of the project was originally slated for around that time, Herbster said. But it kept getting put off for budgetary reasons and other priorities.

Its no secret that this has been a long-awaited project.

Every section will have chairback seats, except for the upper portions of sections B and H (located along the 10-yard-line) which will feature bleachers.

We originally looked at doing just the middle three sections, or the middle five sections and putting bleachers in the rest, Herbster said. But with the current changes, we wanted to keep a consistent level of chairback seats.

The newly-painted red seat brackets have all been installed and some of the seats were put into place last Friday, July 15, and the goal is to have them attached by the end of this month.

Gone will be the days of cracked seats causing problems for fans, Herbster said.

This was a very timely project, because those seats were the original ones put in the Dome when it first opened, Herbster said. They were fiberglass and some were cracking in the corners. It was one of those things where people either loved them or hated them.

To that end, those people who have called to reserve season tickets have expressed their support for the changes, according to Brad Simons, coordinator of Ticket Operations and Sales

I think people have been pretty pleased hearing that were getting new ones, Simons said. The old ones were outdated and pretty ugly, to be honest. These new ones will be much cleaner and more comfortable, and you want people to be comfortable during a three-hour game.

The DakotaDome seats 10,000 fans for football and the Coyotes have averaged 7,600 fans per game since coach Ed Meierkort took over in 2004.

As part of USDs future plans for the Dome, which was approved by the South Dakota Board of Regents three weeks ago, ongoing renovations will include increasing the seating capacity to 16,000 for football.

Donations from the Howling Pack USDs booster club members helped offset the costs for the seating project, as did small increases in ticket prices. Season tickets for the 2011 football season are $90, an increase of $5 from last fall, but the price includes an additional home game.

We knew we werent going to cover the costs in one year, Herbster said. It was going to have to be a three-year period.

Another athletic project nearing completion, Herbster said, is a new basketball court. The new court was being painted with the new Coyote logo and other emblems last week and ships to Vermillion this week.

It should be ready by the end of July, but once we get it in here and get it set up, the company will have to show us how to put it together and store it, said Herbster, who added that the goal is to have the court ready for the start of football camp and the other fall sports teams reporting.

During the last 10 years, the Dome has received its share of facelifts.

A new $13 million steel roof was constructed in 2001, during which the football team played home games in Yankton and Sioux Falls.

In 2004, upgrades included a new Daktronics video board, concourse and concession improvements, renovations to womens locker room and press box updates.

In 2007, the sports medicine area was renovated, mens locker rooms were replaced, the equipment room was reconstructed and a new arena floor was installed.

Also in 2007, construction began on the Coyote Landing VIP area on the north side of the Dome, overlooking the northeast corner of the football field.

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