USD administrators are planning renovations to the DakotaDome that would improve student seating, athletic locker rooms and other building adjustments.
The DakotaDome has seen three renovations in its 38 years.
In 2001, a steel roof replaced the air-supported dome to address roof collapses. Locker and training rooms were addressed in 2007, along with replacing the Dome floor. Five years ago, new turf was installed to help improve the field.
Athletic Director David Herbster said USD is beginning to plan a new set of renovations.
“We developed at least a program concept,” Herbster said. “We asked ourselves, ‘What are we going to do to the west side of the dome?’”
Much of the planned renovations are a consequence of the completion of the Sanford Coyote Sports Center (SCSC), which is connected to the Dome, said Herbster.
Brand new space at the SCSC have replaced some of the cramped offices, equipment and courts of the Dome.
“We don’t need those courts any more,” Herbster said. “Then we moved the weight room out of there, too. So we’re looking at repurposing that space. By doing that we could then put locker rooms, meeting rooms and classrooms on that west side.”
After the athletic department decided what renovations they wanted to do, engineers and architects told them what was feasible, based on the capabilities of the Dome.
“You get an idea of what it would take structurally, mechanically and we can get an idea for the cost,” Herbster said. “The cost is only a ballpark figure, but at least we have an idea and now we’re in the silent phase of fundraising. It’s going to be all privately raised dollars – it has to be.”
After raising the funds for the estimated cost of the project, Herbster said USD would take the proposal to the Board of Regents.
“If it were to be approved, it would move on to the state legislature where the Senate and House Appropriations Committee would approve, then the entire legislature would vote on it,” he said. “Then USD would fine-tune the cost, ‘What do we really need and what does it cost to get there?’”
Before the SCSC was built, Herbster said a structural engineer came in to evaluate the Dome.
“We had to do it, because we were basically punching big holes in the side of the Dome,” he said. “The engineer said the Dome was structurally sound and should be standing for another 40 years.”
Herbster noted that while plans are subject to change, the renovations would be conducted in four phases.
The first phase would include building locker rooms on the west side of the dome, underneath student seating. Currently in that location are many storage rooms and run-down basketball courts. Meeting rooms for sport teams would be built, along with offices for coaches and staff.
Chairs would replace the bleachers in the student section and capacity would be improved. Construction of a mezzanine similar to the one on the east side of the dome would include bathrooms and concession stands.
Other improvements would include modernizing mechanical and electrical systems and improving the lighting and sound system in the Dome.
Additionally, the practice fields north of the Dome would be replaced with a turf surface, which would make the field more manageable and could be played on later in the fall and sooner in the spring.
The second phase would involve completion of the mezzanine behind the student section. The third phase would be to add upper seating and to remodel the outside of the Dome, including the HVAC systems and the lighting in the outside fields. The final phase would address issues with the pool.
If there are no hiccups in the approval process and funding, Herbster says renovations would begin in 2018 after the football season.
Junior Dennis Carlson said he’s receptive to the planned renovations.
“I think having all the needed facilities in one place will help teams plan and perform for games,” he said. “The new seats would definitely be more comfortable for students to cheer on the Coyotes.”
Junior Gawain Williams is a track and field athlete and wondered about the impact on track and field events.
“It would make the Dome look much more professional,” he said. “In the current stadium, they have to roll away the (football field) so fans can see some of the events. I want to know if the renovations would impact that.”
Williams said he likes the plan to add a mezzanine.
“Right now, students have to go underneath the stands to buy food or drinks,” he said. “I don’t like having to go to the floor to use the restroom or get a bite to eat.”
In an email, Herbster stated the renovations are still in the conceptual stage.
“We have not taken anything forward to the Board of Regents for approval and won’t until we have enough financial commitment from donors to do so,” he said.
USD President James Abbott said completion of phase one would cost $30 million. In contrast, the SCSC cost $66 million to complete, according to USD’s website.
“We want to replace the bleachers with permanent seats and put in a new locker room for the football team,” Abbott said. “We couldn’t replace the seats and do the locker room after, they would have to be at the same time.”
Abbott says he’s primarily focused on fundraising and not so much the planning of the renovations. He thinks the new seats will make students happy.
“The students will certainly be a lot more comfortable,” he said. “They’re not going to shake and wave. The seats will be good for the students and the locker room will be great for recruitment.”