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Broadcaster Press 03 June 24, 2014 www.broadcasteronline.com New arena closer to reality By Jeremy Hoeck jeremy.hoeck@yankton.net Craig Smith knows firsthand what a new arena can do for a basketball culture. The hope now is that Smith, the men’s basketball coach at the University of South Dakota, can replicate in Vermillion what he experienced at Nebraska last season. Though on a smaller scale. During a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday afternoon for a $66 million project that includes three athletic facilities, Smith was quick to point out the parallels between basketball arenas at USD and Nebraska. “It created such an energy around our program, and it became an event to go to one of our games,” said Smith, who came to USD after spending two seasons as an assistant with the Huskers. “It became the cool thing to do.” Nebraska increased its average home basketball attendance by nearly 5,100 fans in 2013-14, the largest single Division I increase since 2007. It didn’t hurt, either, that the Huskers won 19 games and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 16 years. Far from a Big Ten comparison, the Coyotes are, however, thinking just as big, Smith said. “That’s our vision; that’s the direction we’re headed,” he said. “With the new arena, the response from recruits has been incredible.” With Gov. Dennis Daugaard, USD president Jim Abbott, donors, fans, supporters, coaches and media in attendance, Tuesday’s ceremony was more of a celebration than a simple dirt-moving exercise. USD will open its 6,000seat basketball and volleyball arena in 2016, while the nearby outdoor track and soccer complex is set for a 2015 completion. A one-story Science, Health and Research Lab will connect the arena on the south side of the DakotaDome. While contractors and engineers will worry about actually building those structures, Coyote coaches were adamant that recruiting is one of the immediate impacts that will be felt by the new home. Put simply, a new arena could attract high-profile recruits who might not otherwise would have looked at USD, according to women’s basketball coach Amy Williams. “Certainly we think it’ll open some eyes and open some doors,” she said. “If all things are equal for a recruit, sometimes it’s the facility that pushes them over the top.” Would a new facility DAKOTA SENIOR MEALS Served at The Main Street Center & Town Square, “Meals on Wheels” Please call before 9:00am to schedule or cancel a meal at 624-7868. Menus listed below are June 25 – July 1. Menus are subject to change without notice. All menus are served with whole grain bread and 1% milk unless otherwise noted Wednesday – BBQ Ribs, Baked Potato, Corn, Seasoned Greens, Fruit Thursday – Chicken Ala King over Mashed Potatoes, Peaches, Lime Perfection Salad Friday – Baked Fish, Parsley Potatoes, Glazed Carrots, Pears Monday – Tator Tot Casserole, Tossed Salad, Squash, Banana Tuesday – Hawaiian Chicken Salad, Corn Muffin, Fruit Crisp w/topping Hello! my name is Introduce yourself to thousands of new customers with a display ad in the Broadcaster Press. It’s a great way to showcase your products and services to consumers who care about keeping our community vibrant and strong by supporting local businesses like yours. Call Carol at 605.624.4429 today, and let us start spreading the word about your business. Thank You have swayed Nicole Seekamp? Not as much as one would think, the senior-to-be for the women’s basketball team joked. She likened the potential atmosphere to playing in the Summit League Tournament at the Sioux Falls Arena. “If it’s going to be an atmosphere like that every time we play at home, that’d be awesome,” Seekamp said. That’s what USD is banking on, that a new arena will help boost attendance and fan support. Last season, the men’s basketball program averaged 1,796 fans in 13 games, while the women’s team played in front of an average of 1,398 fans over 13 games. “Hopefully I’ll get to play at least a year or two in it,” joked Crofton, Nebraska native Bridget Arens, an upcoming sophomore for the women’s basketball team. A new home for basketball — and volleyball — was much needed on USD’s athletic landscape, according to Abbott. He pointed out that the DakotaDome was built in 1979 for $8.2 million. “It’s important to remember, with the dome itself for basketball, that was a bit of a compromise,” Abbott said. “When they started planning it, they wanted two separate facilities. It just wasn’t monetarily possible, but now it is.” Football will remain in the DakotaDome, and will eventually see increased seating (that’s another phase of USD’s athletic master plan), but it’s been basketball and volleyball that have suffered since the dome opened, as Daugaard pointed out on a couple of occasions. Dignitaries including Gov. Dennis Daugaard (left of center), USD President James Abbott (right of center) and USD athletic director David Herbster (second from right) prepare to turn over the first shovels of dirt Tuesday afternoon near the DakotaDome to mark the groundbreaking for USD’s $66 million facilities project. (Photo by James D. Cimburek) The governor said the DakotaDome has been the “central location” for high school football championships in South Dakota — that it’s “every kid’s dream to become a football champion here.” On the other hand, the dome has been “less than ideal” for basketball and volleyball, he added. “It’s just too cavernous,” he told the Press & Dakotan. “To have an area that is designed for those sports, and will arrange the crowd in such a way that they’re close to the action, it’s just a great day at USD.” Even in the short-term, before the arena officially opens in two years. Athletic director David Herbster put it this way: Certain coaches likely wouldn’t be at USD without such projects. “I can tell you, we wouldn’t have attracted coaches like Amy Williams or Craig Smith without the vision of this program in place,” he said. “It’s one thing to see the picture — and you can see their eyes open up — but that’s secondary to walking through the door, and touching it and playing in it.” The first bid packages for the track and soccer complex will go out by the end of this week, Herbster said. Then comes the second bid package, for the excavation and earth work for the arena the following week. The actual work on the arena will begin at the end of July, Herbster said. As far as volleyball is concerned, the program is looking forward to boosting its home atmosphere, head coach Leanne Williamson said. The Coyotes, who used to play their home matches on the DakotaDome floor, have spent the last two seasons playing at the ‘Coyote Den’ on the dome’s upper level. “We love our den, and we love playing up there,” Williamson said. “It’s loud, it’s a great environment, but having a new arena will bring a sense of pride for our program.” You can follow Jeremy Hoeck on Twitter at twitter.com/jhoeck. VERMILLION FORD BUY OR LEASE A NEW FORD TODAY! OR SAVE BIG ON THE AREA’S LARGEST SELECTION OF FORD CERTIFIED PRE-OWNED VEHICLES! 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