There’s a new set of wheels cruising around campus.
The university invested more than $19,000 to add to its pack of “Charlie Carts,” which are used to transport prospective students around USD during tours. The USD Foundation and the university partnered to pay for the new golf cart.
“It makes it unique when you come to our campus. Most institutions that I’ve seen across the U.S. you walk, so this makes us kind of cool,” said Scott Pohlson, vice president of Marketing, Enrollment and University Relations.
The university has four Charlie Carts in total, though they are planning to sell its largest golf cart, “Big Charlie,” because it doesn’t operate like it should and is difficult for some student ambassadors to use.
“It’s a manual so it can be hard to train some of our student ambassadors on it,” Pohlson said. “It doesn’t turn like it’s supposed to.”
The other three Charlie Carts all have automatic transmission.
The last time USD purchased a Charlie Cart was in 2013. USD purchased its first Charlie Cart in 2009.
Pohlson said the new “Medium Charlie” golf cart was a necessary investment, because annual maintenance costs on just a single golf cart can reach up to $5,000. By investing in the new golf cart, he’s hoping the need for annual maintenance will go down.
Kimberley Andres, the program assistant for Marketing, Enrollment and University Relations, said the university rotates maintenance on the Charlie Carts each year because they can’t afford to do all of them at once.
“Just a battery alone costs around $2,000,” she said.
Pohlson said much of the wear and tear on the carts comes from sand on the sidewalk, as well as snow and ice during the winter months.
Additionally, Mark Petty, dean of enrollment, said the widening of sidewalks around campus has made navigating the golf carts easier for drivers.
The new Charlie Cart can seat up to eight people and has a maximum speed of 17 mph – though Polhson said a university official recorded it at 22 mph.
USD ordered the new golf cart from Star, and it was manufactured in China. Andres said while it was supposed to take 12 weeks to manufacture and ship, USD received their bright red Charlie Cart in 10 weeks.
“You can customize how you want it in terms of color,” Andres said. “We should get ours decaled.”
Pohlson said it hasn’t been decided how much decal work will be done to the new golf cart.
“We have to decide how much we want to spend (on decal work),” he said. “We don’t want it to look all weird, so we’ll follow brand standards.”
Driving the carts
There are more than 50 student ambassadors trained to drive the Charlie Carts, which are stored in three McFadden Residence Hall garages.
Junior Kennidy Asche has been a student ambassador for three years, and said steering can sometimes be a challenge when driving the Charlie Carts.
“Some of the Charlies don’t turn very well, so we’ve (student ambassadors) run over different things,” Asche said. “Grounds crew isn’t happy, but we’ve gotten better about it. I still can’t drive (Big Charlie) that well.”
Student ambassador KC Herman, a junior, said giving tours to prospective students has continually reaffirmed his passion for choosing to study at USD.
“If they (students) are passionate about USD and they like the fact that they go here and love the school, then they should be a tour guide,” he said.
Asche said she was inspired to become a student ambassador because of her campus tour experience. She said it had an impact on her, and she wanted to impact prospective students in a similar way.
“It’s really a nice feeling to know you could have an impact on someone,” she said.