SIOUX CITY | After the grass field at Memorial Field is replaced with artificial turf, the Briar Cliff University's home football games will return to the Sioux City stadium this fall.

For the last four seasons, Briar Cliff has played its home games at the University of South Dakota's DakotaDome in Vermillion, a 35-minute drive from Briar Cliff's campus on the north side of Sioux City.

Memorial Field is owned by Bishop Heelan High School, which has a long football tradition. The stadium also hosted Briar Cliff games after the private college introduced the sport in 2003.

Heelan Activities Director Jason Pratt confirmed Friday that Briar Cliff has agreed to make Memorial Field its home again, starting this fall, and partner in the cost of converting the field to FieldTurf. Excavating of the existing field has begun, with project scheduled for completion before the start of the season for the Crusaders and Chargers.

More information will be presented at a news conference on Thursday. Briar Cliff Athletics Director Nic Nelson declined comment Friday.

Last fall, Briar Cliff President Hamid Shirvani, appointed in April 2016, said the school was exploring the prospect of building an athletic complex on campus. The study included soil tests and a search for available ground.

By moving most home football games to the DakotaDome, home to University of South Dakota, the NCAA Division 1 FCS  in 2013, Briar Cliff officials hoped to bolster recruiting and enhance the game environment for its fans. Briar Cliff was one of the few NAIA teams in the nation with a home field indoors.

Despite the lengthy drive to Vermillion, average attendance for the DakotaDome games for the first three seasons was slightly above the team's last season outdoors in Sioux City, according to a Journal analysis in 2015. While the gate receipts were up, the revenue generated covers only about a quarter of the $5,000 per game that USD charged Briar Cliff for use of the dome.

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County and education reporter

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