Athletic master plan

Athletic administrators focus on facility planning;
Master plan presented to Regents, follow-up set for April meeting

Coaches recruit every year regardless of the number of scholarships they have to award for the following season.

There is a constant need to replace departing talent, to equip teams with the talent to advance teams to the next level, and to have young athletes ready to commit to SDSU when their opportunity comes.
So it is with SDSU administrators and athletic facilities. The need to update, build new, and plan for the future is on going, especially for a Division I school sponsoring a combined twenty-one sports in the men’s and women’s programs. Hence, the 2025 master plan for athletic facilities was developed last fall.

It originated from work done on behalf of the University by Crawford Architects, a Kansas City, Missouri, firm that was hired in fall 2009.

The University refined the work and presented it to the South Dakota Board of Regents October 13, 2010. The plan aligns with the University’s 2025 Facility Master Plan, which was adopted in October 2008, and covers fourteen facilities. It continues to develop athletic facilities in the northeast section of campus.

Topping the list is a new football stadium and an indoor practice and human performance facility.

Waiting on the Regents

The Regents’ reaction has caused a delay of the plan’s implementation. With a new governor moving into Pierre in January and the Legislature facing another budget deficit, the Regents said they wanted to see how the athletic facility improvements and other projects within the Board of Regents system fall within the statewide ten-year-plan.

Although state dollars aren’t being sought for the plan, approval from the Regents and the Legislature is still needed for new construction.

The move to table the projects certainly doesn’t kill them, Athletic Director Justin Sell says. In fact, the master plan is expected to go back before the Regents in April. “Now we’re fine tuning the master plan to be ready to move quickly when we’re granted the opportunity to go ahead,” he says at a year-end interview.

If the Regents grant initial approval in April, SDSU administrators could be back to the Regents in October seeking specific project approval.

“It could be one, two, or three projects. Who knows? All that will be dictated by funding,” Sell says. Between April and October, the University would need to hire an architectural and engineering firm to develop facility designs, and then solicit donations for the work. “It all comes down to getting revenue,” Sell says.

Changes would drive income to SDSU

Enhanced revenue sources are part of the reason for building new facilities, especially for football and basketball.

The football team plays in Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, which will mark its fiftieth season this fall.

Sell ticked off eight sources of income that a new stadium would bring:
• Naming rights for the stadium itself and specialized areas like the press box;
• Enhanced corporate sponsorships;
• The ability to sell game-day suites;
• Premium seating options, such as fifty-yard-line views and access to a club room with food and beverage privileges;
• Increased seating due to a greater capacity;
• Improved concession stand sales;
• Parking revenue; and
• Increased fund-raising from donations from season-ticket holders.

Most of those revenue streams also would be available with a reconfigurement of Frost Arena. “We’re not looking to build a new arena,” Sell stresses. “We want to address seating configuration and create suites.” Frost Arena was built thirty-seven years ago and current season-ticket holders already fill most of the reserved seats.

There are plenty of general admission seats to be had, but those only generate revenue when a fan makes the continual decision to drive to campus and buy a ticket.

There’s nothing like winning

Season-ticket holders lock in revenue in advance as well as grow Jackrabbit Club donations.

Sell notes, “There’s a newfound excitement about the men’s basketball program. If we win three games in The Summit League tournament and go to the NCAA tournament, our ticket sales will explode.”

The 2009 playoff-qualifying football team already showed what a winning team can do for fan interest. Coughlin-Alumni Stadium holds 10,200. In 2009, SDSU averaged 13,265 fans through its five home games. During the off-season, the number of season-ticket holders grew from 1,934 to 2,352.

Another factor to keep in mind with older facilities is the cost of maintenance, Sell reminds.

‘Critical . . . for our success’

He says top-of-the-line facilities improve the recruitment of students to campus, provide a quality game-day experience for fans, and impact the ability to gain revenue.

The move to Division I has meant longer seasons for many sports, most notably football and spring sports, which now begin games while it is still winter in Brookings. Teams can fly south to find games, but where can they practice? Right now the answer is the Barn, the 1918 intramural building.

“An indoor practice facility . . . is a critical component for our success,” Sell says.

Partnership equals added opportunities

That would be built in connection with a human performance facility, which is usually built in association with a medical partner. That partnership would provide construction dollars and enhance the athletic and academic programs, he says.

Athletically, it would give the opportunity to coordinate strength and conditioning, athletic training, and team physician staffs within the same complex.

Academically, the physical therapy, athletic training, and sport nutrition programs would have greater opportunity for experiential learning through working with professional medical staffs in labs, in the classroom, and in research, Sell says.

Additionally, there would be more opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to work as athletic trainers with high schools to the north and west of Brookings, which are currently underserved areas, Sell says.
It is the football stadium, indoor practice facility, and human performance facility that have drawn the headlines and are admittedly the highest priorities.

However, the plan goes much deeper, including facilities for often-overlooked sports like golf and tennis.

“If somebody were to come to me and want to support another project, we would certainly do that. That’s what I like about this master plan, it gives the ability to develop any sport facility,” Sell says.

Dave Graves

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