VERMILLION, S.D. | Final approval by the Board of Regents earlier this month gave the University of South Dakota the green light to begin construction on several major projects, most notably a 6,000-seat arena for basketball and volleyball.
The Board of Regents also approved an outdoor facility for soccer and track as well as a science, health and research laboratory.
Together, the cost for the structures exceeds $66 million. USD athletic director David Herbster said the athletic program still needs to raise an additional $9.5 million between now and ground-breaking, which could possibly take place next spring.
“The Board of Regents gave us approval to begin construction based on the entire funding model,” Herbster said. “Us raising $9.5 million was the key and we’ll have to continue to raise funds throughout the spring. We had to issue the bonds but couldn’t unless the model was in place.”
Herbster said design to development plans are due in mid-January and at that point construction work can start in earnest.
“What needs to be done when will determine when we start,” Herbster said. “It’s not only a question of when we start, but when do you cut into the dome? And on the outdoor sites there will have to be some moving around of fields in order for teams to compete and practice.
“But there is light at the end of the tunnel and we know it’s not a train coming.”
That’s certainly a significant amount of money but Herbster is confident the money is out there.
“We still have to make sure fundraising is at the point where the (USD) Foundation is competent that we can complete it,” Herbster said. “It’s a fine line to balance between but folks know the funding and financial implications of a bound market and financing, putting that all together. If we were not able to issue the bonds this fall I’m not sure when when things would have happened, so timing was critical.”
USD got approval for a preliminary plan for a new arena and outdoor track and soccer complex in October of 2012. At that time, the estimated cost was just over $48 million but that was before it was discovered that its original plan for a below-ground arena would not work.
“What we found out is that the water table drove up the cost pretty significantly,” Herbster said. “We would have had to dig 13 feet below the water table, which put us in a position of driving up the cost.”
So instead of putting the court at the same level as the DakotaDome football field, the basketball court will now be the same level as the concourse.
“We brought it out of the ground but kept the square footage the same,” Herbster said. “There are some drawbacks but it’s a better flow and better synergy with the physical therapy and classroom space we needed.”
The new design of the arena and soccer/track facility has an estimated cost of $53.6 million. The “Science Health and Research Laboratory,” the building used to link the arena and dome, was also redesigned at a cost of $12.6 million.
The arena will still be located south of the DakotaDome with the interior plans remaining the same. But instead of a three-story facility, the Science Health and Research Laboratory will now be a one-story facility and will be located south of the arena but will still be connected to the dome.
“The footprint is roughly the same, it just covers more square footage above ground,” Herbster said. “We’re at the point where the footprint and square footage is set and the overall functionality will stay the same.
“I’m confident we will finish it off. We still have a lot of people to follow up with but now is the time to do it.”
According to Herbster, the athletic department has been told that they’re looking at a 20-month construction timeline, so if all goes well, the Coyotes would be playing in a new arena in 2016.