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Arena design up in the air

Original design plans for the new athletic facility put it underground and on the same level as the DakotaDome, but after construction of the DakotaDome in 1979 revealed water table issues, the new facility may be moving above ground.

“The Dome was built on a slew, and there were some water table issues there in the beginning,” said Jon Schemmel, assistant athletic director of development at USD. “We have a few options right now. We could build above ground or underground, but the water may push it above ground.”

Schemmel said they wanted the new arena to be on the same level as the DakotaDome to sustain an orderly and efficient environment for students and athletes on one level.

“We want it to be a home for student athletes, if everything could be on one level,” Schemmel said. “However, regardless of what level it is on it will not change what we are putting in there.”

Schemmel said this project will be more than just an athletic arena and will serve the Vermillion community, not just the university.

“This is a lot more than USD athletics,” he said. “We are hoping to host more youth sporting events and Vermillion activities. We want this to impact not only university athletics, but ultimately USD, Vermillion and the state of South Dakota.”

The new facility will also provide more opportunity for bigger events such as concerts and other performances.

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The university has already talked with several construction companies to handle the project, however none have been officially selected by President James Abbott.

Meetings will be held in the next few months to determine the bonding process of the project and to determine final aspects of the designing stage.

“Fundraising has been going great so far,” Schemmel said.

Funding for the new arena is divided into three sources of income with a majority of the funds drawn from donation and fundraising, said Steve Brown, president and CEO of USD Foundation.

State dollars, private donations and the revenue stream from various sponsorships make up the bulk of the arena’s budget. The USD Foundation is responsible for the private donations as well as heading USD’s “Onward” campaign.

“We are looking to accumulate $250 million in donations,” Brown said. “About $70 million of which is set aside for the new athletic facility. A month from now, we should have a better scope of what to expect financially.”

The last number recorded for donations was around $52 million, said Schemmel. On the grounds of student fees, Brown assured that students would not be contributing to the construction of the arena financially, and that funding will come primarily from the work of USD Foundation.

“It’s all about relationship work,” Brown said. “Talking with alumni from around the country and maintaining good connections, so that hopefully, they will donate.”

One portion of the arena will be supported through Heff Funding, which is operated by the state. Science, health and research lab classrooms will connect the Dakota Dome to the new basketball arena, a section of the facility funded through Heff.

Aaron Polkinghorn, senior, supports the construction of the new arena even if it is his last year at USD.

“I’ll be graduated by the time it finishes,” Polkinghorn said, “but I think it’s a good investment if we’re trying to move into a Division I atmosphere.”

Polkinghorn thinks the new arena has more potential than what has already been planned, namely the need for a rehearsal space for USD’s marching band.

“It would be nice if they had a designated place for the marching band to practice instead of having them go outside,” he said. “The University of Minnesota has something like that and I think it’s something to look into here.”