Designers change plans for proposed USD arena

By Jeremy Hoeck

As fundraising continues for a pair of athletic facility projects, the University of South Dakota has, at least, overcome certain construction obstacles, says athletic director David Herbster.

The original plan for the proposed 6,000-seat basketball and volleyball arena in Vermillion called for the courts beneath ground level south of the DakotaDome, with seats rising up. Because of issues — costs and water table concerns — associated with digging that far underground, plans now call for the arena to be built at ground level, with the courts on the same plane as the concourse, Herbster said.

USD has raised “a little over” $52 million for the arena project, as well as an outdoor track and soccer complex, Herbster said this week, adding that the changes have all but assured a spring 2014 construction start.

“When you get to this point in the design process, you look where you can squeeze things in,” he said. “You want to make sure your flow is right, with parking, fans, teams, athletes and staff.

“You want to try to centralize your functionality.”

Because of the design change to the arena, the originally proposed three-story facility that will house the Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Kinesiology and Sports Sciences departments will now be a one-level structure, Herbster said.

Everything previously planned for that facility remains, including increased sports medicine space, a strength and conditioning room, multi-purpose rooms, program offices, academic laboratories and classrooms.

“You’re taking those three stories and moving everything into basically the same square footage,” Herbster said. “You just won’t have it stacked one on top of each other. Everything we wanted in there will still be in there.”

Herbster said USD is working with two design firms, Populous (which has offices in Kansas City and Denver) and Architecture Inc. of Sioux Falls, and that the design stages are an “ongoing process.”

The one thing that has not changed, though, is USD’s fundraising push, Herbster said — though the A.D. admitted he wished he had more “bodies to throw at this.”

“I knew in this process the first half would come relatively quickly, then the next quarter you would have to slug it out, and the last quarter you’re really going to have to bear down and work harder,” he said.

Certain anonymous gifts have continued to trickle in, including a recent $100,000 gift for the track complex, Herbster said.

Because of the layout of the track and soccer complex, a number of other athletic teams — including intramurals — would be affected.

The new soccer stadium (with a nearby practice field) would be located where the current football practice fields are, while the new outdoor track would be located along University Street — west of the new soccer location, near where USD holds intramural practices and games for students.

Two new synthetic football practice fields are planned for the area north of the DakotaDome, as well, where the current soccer field sits.

In the meantime, USD’s athletic department and Foundation staff will continue to seek donations, Herbster said.

“Over the next six months we’ll have to hit it hard,” he said. “Even once we start digging, we’ll still continue to raise money. But you’ve got to start to build at some point in time.

“The cost of construction isn’t going to get any lower, and interest rates on those bonds will only go up.”


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