Venue change means improvements at gametime
As many of you are aware, Augustana’s athletic department is considering moving the men and women’s basketball games to the Sioux Falls Arena. Some people see this as a huge setback for the basketball program, but in reality, it is a step into the future.
Our current setup at the Elmen Center is outdated, and the costs to update the gym would cost anywhere from $1 million to $4 million. In the process, many seats would be lost. The improvements that are needed include chairback seats, video boards and suites. Augie is one of the few schools in the NSIC, along with schools like Upper Iowa and Crookston, that don’t have these key features that add to the college basketball experience.
Problems at the Elmen Center are numerous and detrimental to the overall feel of the program. Such problems plaguing the Elmen include uncomfortable seats for the fan base and a lack of video boards that add to the game-day atmosphere. Teams have to run through the fans in the concourse as if they were at a high school, parking is limited and many visitors park blocks away or in reserved student parking in Berg and Solberg.
Additionally, the bathrooms are hard to find, and many people who are still in the Dark Ages (without smart phones) have a difficult time finding the nearly unmarked Elmen. The list could go on further, but those constitute the major problems that have fueled the search for a different venue.
If Augie would sign the five-year contract (with a two year escape clause), it would not be to the “old Arena” but a new, re-fitted Arena.
First off, the Arena court would be repainted with Augie colors and look similar to the Elmen Center’s court.
Second, railings, concourse poles and the front entrance would be painted blue and gold and decked out in the Augie theme.
Third, the chairback seats would be replaced with newer seats that are much more comfortable than the Elmen’s benches.
Fourth, the students would be given their own section at the end of the court that would allow them to maintain the Augieholic image as the conference’s best fan section. The video boards would be used to incorporate the audience better and create an atmosphere that rival teams would not easily forget. Finally, a large curtain would be hung up over the top portion of the Arena to make it look more intimate.
Some of you might be aware that student participation has dropped in recent years. According to the numbers, though, student participation was at its highest when we still played at the Arena (the last year was ’07-’08). Fan buses would transport students there at different intervals on game night. The same would happen in the future, and there would be promotions and giveaways on the buses. If students aren’t willing to walk across the street to the Elmen Center, it will not make a negative difference if the game is played in a better and more entertaining venue.
It is time for Augie to move forward with its basketball program by expanding into a larger, better-equipped venue and attracting increasing levels of talent and higher ticket sales. As JFK once said, “There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”
Jesse Fonkert is a senior business administration and government/international affairs major from Mobridge, S.D.
Arena move based on budget, not student desire
As most everyone has heard by now, the Augustana athletic brass is considering a change of venue for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Economics represent the reasoning behind the move, but the administration must ask itself if the desire to save money will harm the product Augie puts out on the court.
I have been to every home game this season, sans games during breaks, and I have yet to witness a capacity crowd (though, admittedly, Saturday night’s crowd for the Northern State game came close). Both the men’s and women’s teams have exhibited the ability to play quality NSIC basketball, and both teams have had decent, if unspectacular records in conference play (Men 11-9, Women 10-10). Attendance, overall, has been similar—decent (especially compared to other conference foes), but nothing worth boasting about. If fans do not fill up the Elmen Center, why should they be expected to fully inhabit the Sioux Falls Arena?
The Elmen Center has provided one of the NSIC’s best home-court advantages over the last several years. From 2006 to 2013, through last season, the Vikings’ men tallied a superb 79-19 home record. They won over 80 percent of their games at the Elmen. The women did even better over that time, going 87-14 at home and winning a mind-boggling 86 percent of their home games. Augie’s history of exemplary successes at the Elmen Center must be accounted for.
Women’s head coach Dave Krauth, who says he can see both pros and cons of a potential move, admitted the home court advantage that the Elmen Center presents is a big deal.
“It [the move] is something I’m a little apprehensive about, but there could be some financial benefits for us if it goes as well as we hope,” Krauth said.
Student attendance has been rather dismal this season. Other than the USF, Mankato and SMSU games, the student section has channeled a corpse-like level of enthusiasm. If the venue of home games changed, the student section would go from rarely occupied to extinct.
Many students won’t venture across the street to attend a game, so it seems laughable to assume they would be willing to drive across town to watch some basketball. I have yet to converse with a single student who longs for a home court alteration.
The students of Augustana do not desire an arena change, and their concerns should be accounted for. The people in charge of the decision seem to be taking a “money talks” approach, but shouldn’t a $35,550 price tag scream?
The premise behind a move seems to revolve around green and white—not yellow and blue.
Jacob Belgum is a freshman journalism and sports management major from Atwater, Minn.