Augustana will have to consider potential future venues for hosting men’s and women’s basketball and commencement.
On Oct. 27 the Argus Leader reported that the city is considering its options with the Sioux Falls Arena going forward, weighing the needs for convention space against increased hotel space. A consultant was hired out of Minneapolis to present plans that satisfy both needs.
Augustana is in its fourth year of a five- year contract to use the space for both basketball games and commencement.
“The move to the Arena has been really positive for us,” said Athletic Director Slade Larscheid. “We would like to maintain being a tenant at the arena if possible for the foreseeable future. We also know that we’re only a tenant, and we have to be prepared to adapt.”
Registrar Joni Krueger says commencement will most likely follow the lead of the athletic department for whatever changes are made.
“I will say that at this point in time, we will keep listening to what the city decides to do with the Arena,” Krueger said. “And if some point the facility is no longer available for commencement, we will look at our options. Our current commencement contract is built into our contract for our basketball team being here, so I would assume we would look at options for where the team ends up playing.”
Larscheid says he has been in contact with SMG, the company that manages the Arena and the Denny Sanford Premiere Center, and plans to be in contact with the consultant.
“I had a conversation with SMG before the initial article came out in the Argus Leader,” Larscheid said. “They’re keeping me in an open dialogue, which is reassuring going forward.”
After the initial article, the Argus Leader’s editorial board published an editorial arguing for the Arena to be torn down.
“The sound of squeaking high-tops at the Arena has dwindled to Augustana University double-headers that don’t come close to filling the venue,” the board wrote in the piece.
The editorial board argued that more hotel and restaurant space to accommodate the Premier Center is more important than the current structure of the Arena.
“We can utilize the Arena’s current washed vertical air by stacking horizontal space in multiple tiers,” the board wrote. “Working in quick-serve restaurant and bar options will enhance the allure of the complex as a place to congregate before, during and after events.”
Larscheid says that the three years spent at the Arena, built in 1961, has transformed it into a real home court for the school.
“We’ve done a lot, just as far as overall aesthetics, trying to make it a true home court,” said Larscheid. “Previously, it was really a neutral site, but over the last three years, it really has become home.”
The home court advantage shows in the play of both basketball teams. The men’s team boasts a record 34-3 at the Arena, while the women’s team stands at 27-8.
“We’ve had some really special seasons there,” said Larscheid. “I think it’s been to the benefit to our fans and our student athletes for making that move.”
Steven Schaefer, senior guard on the men’s team, says the connection to the Arena is there not only as an Augustana athlete, but as a South Dakotan.
“I have very much enjoyed playing at the arena,” Schaefer said. “It has a bit of a nostalgic feel for me as I played at the Arena in my high school state tournament when I was a junior. My dad also played there during his high school days, so it is pretty cool to be able to play all my college home games in a venue that has so much history to it.”
Larscheid says Augustana hopes to remain a tenant, but realizes that changes will have to be adapted in the future.
“We have to look at how future changes to the facility affect our residence there,” said Larscheid. “We’ve had to have potential future locations on our radar. We’ve been very appreciative of being the main tenant at the Arena. But long term, the Arena is going to change, and we’re going to have to as well.
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