USD projects approved by Regents

University of South Dakota President James Abbott describes details of facility plans for proposed additions to athletics and academics facilities on the campus, including the addition of a basketball arena near the DakotaDome, the construction of a science, health and research lab, and an outdoor track and soccer complex. Abbott addressed the South Dakota Board of Regent's Committee on Budget and Finance during its Wednesday afternoon meeting in the Muenster University Center.

 (David Lias/Vermillion Plain Talk)

By Travis Gulbrandson

The state Board of Regents approved a trio of major projects for the University of South Dakota at a meeting Wednesday afternoon in Vermillion.

The regents approved an expansion of the Muenster University Center (MUC), the preliminary facility statement and facility program plan of the USD Science, Health and Research Lab, and the facility program plan of the USD Sports Performance Enhancement Facility Arena.

According to Sheila Gestring, vice president of finance at USD, the MUC expansion essentially will replace the north commons dining facility.

"The expansion will be to the south on both the east and west sides of the existing connecter between the library and the facility today," she said.

The university is looking to add 28,000 square feet of seating space in the MUC, and 31,000 square feet overall, Gestring said.

The north commons dining area has approximately 21,000 square feet, she said.

Gestring said current usage numbers point to the expansion as being necessary, with sales of meal plans being up approximately 30 percent, and retail sales in the MUC increased by 45 percent.

"Students are not just dining in this facility," she added. "I think what you'll find around here is, they come in, they dine, they stay and they study. So, this facility we're finding is utilized most hours of the day, as opposed to the old dining facility. We would find they were using it about three hours of the day extensively."

According to a document distributed to the board of regents, funding for the expansion will come from operating income and cash from the MUC operations totaling $4,472,393, and a loan from the auxiliary system totaling $7,127,607, to be repaid from MUC operations through FY2023.

University President James Abbott addressed the board regarding both the Science, Health and Research Lab and the Sports Performance Enhancement Facility Arena.

The lab is being referred to as "the connector" by USD representatives, Abbott said.

"The point is, we're connecting the DakotaDome with the arena using this academic space," he said.

That space will accommodate areas of health sciences including the occupational therapy, physical therapy, physician's assistant and kinesiology and sports sciences programs.

The "connector" also will provide some much-needed space to DakotaDome employees, Abbott said.

"We don't have any space in the Dome for any sort of offices anymore," he said. "We've got four people in little teeny offices, or chairs, really. This will be a much better use of that space, I think, and it will also provide that connection, because I don't think we want to have an arena separate from the Dome."

The connection will be constructed on the south side of the DakotaDome.

According board of regents documents, the lab will be constructed at an estimated cost of $10,609,000.

Funding for the project will be $8,695,000 from HEFF binding in FY2014 and $1,194,000 in donations, the document said.

Abbott described the USD Sports Performance Enhancement Facility Arena as "a 6,000-seat basketball, volleyball, outdoor track and soccer complex."

According to a Board of Regents document, the project will be constructed at an estimated cost of $48,178,885, funding for which will come from more than $14 million in cash donations, a cash pledge from the USD Foundation of $9,938,559 and athletic revenues of $3,400,000.

A further $20,690 will come from debt financing, repaid with a $20 million Sanford gift, $2 million from rental agreements and $8.4 million from corporate sponsorship agreements, the document said.

"No student fee increases beyond the amount needed for utilities are anticipated for construction, operation or maintenance of this facility," the document said.

All three projects were met with unanimous approval.

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