A new atmosphere: Dome renovations have players and coaches excited for the future
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A new atmosphere: Dome renovations have players and coaches excited for the future

A staple of USD and Vermillion since 1979, the DakotaDome went under construction in February of 2019, and phase one of the $26.3 million dollar project was completed this month.

The first phase of the project includes a new locker room for the football team, new permanent seating on the west side of the Dome, two new entrances on that side and new lights and speakers inside.

“I was thinking back to 2016,” senior defensive back Mark Collins Jr. said. “When I first got on campus and the weight room was up on top behind the bleachers and the locker room was our old one we just had and just seeing how far its come since then is just really pretty mind-blowing. Obviously, that’s really the word that I use to describe it. It sounds kind of odd but just to see how far it’s come just my time being here.”

The new locker room and west side, wasn’t the only thing revealed earlier this month. The Coyote football team unveiled a new all gray uniform to be worn this season. Running backs coach and former Coyote quarterback Dante Warren said many players were so excited about the new locker room, they missed the jerseys being displayed right when they walked in. 

“One of the funny things was, we actually revealed our gray uniforms to the guys as well,” Warren said. “And, as they’re walking into the locker room it’s right there and you know I’m sure a lot of them missed it right away as they were more more concerned with the lighting and their locker and to get to that.”

Warren said one smaller change he noticed was to the speakers in the middle of the Dome. He remembers kickers and punters having the goal of hitting the speaker during practice or on their own time, and quarterbacks would try to throw the ball up and hit it to warm up. He said that is no longer an option.

Both Warren and Collins Jr. said the new locker room and the updated west side is a recruiting piece that will benefit USD for a long time. 

Each locker features a customizable nameplate, a padded seat, ample storage for personal clothing, practice and game gear, and a floor to ceiling ventilation system used to dry equipment. The Volante | Peyton Beyers

“Yeah, I mean it’s a tremendous recruiting tool,” Warren said. “We’re going to talk a lot more about the new amenities that our guys have, like proximity to the training room now. Honestly the look and feel of that locker room, is top notch, especially for our level. And not only that, levels above us.”

Collins Jr. added how he feels recruits view the investment made into USD football.

“I’ve been following, just a little bit I think over these past few weeks our recruiting has been doing really well,” Collins Jr. said. “Just because kids are able to see how invested the South Dakota football program is and the football team by getting the new locker room, the new uniforms, you know they’re really invested, trying to build this program into what it should be.”

As the Coyotes prepare for their next season, whenever that is, Collins Jr. feels as though there is a new level of confidence surrounding the team and program.

“I think everybody has a brand new confidence almost just having that locker room, having that new atmosphere,” Collins Jr. said. “They got the new lights in the Dome, just gave everybody that kind of excitement that honestly we were missing as far as facilities, besides the new weight room that was built, which is obviously awesome. I think it’s been great for the whole team. The atmosphere, It feels like we’re at a Power 5 school.”