AUGUSTANA CONSIDERS THIRD STINT AT ARENA

THOMAS ELNESS

tkelness12@ole.augie.edu

 

Should Augustana make a deal with the Sioux Falls arena to hold basketball games there, an artist's rendering depicts possible design options for the interior, which would be devoted entirely to Augustana themes. Photo courtesy of Bill Gross.

Should Augustana make a deal with the Sioux Falls arena to hold basketball games there, an artist’s rendering depicts possible design options for the interior, which would be devoted entirely to Augustana themes. Photo courtesy of Bill Gross.

Augustana basketball games may soon be returning to the Sioux Falls Arena, according to the Augustana athletic department.

Should the college approve the offer from SMG, the current company that manages the Sioux Falls Arena, next year’s women’s and men’s basketball doubleheaders would be played at the Arena instead of the Elmen Center, Augustana’s current on-campus basketball venue.

Augustana played at the Arena from 1961 to 1989, and again in a short stint from 2006-2007, before returning to the Elmen Center.  The opportunity to return to the Arena comes as result of the Skyforce’s move to the Sioux Falls Pentagon, and the Stampede and Storm leaving for the Denny Sanford Premier Center by summer 2014.

The vacancy opens discussions about a possible move back to the Arena.

“When we first began discussions, we made it clear to Arena management that we had no interest in moving our games to the ‘old’ Sioux Falls Arena,” Augustana Athletic Director Bill Gross said. “If we were going to consider a move there, SMG would have to dress up the Arena to make it ‘new’ by painting the floor with our colors and logos, re-painting the inside and lobby areas of the Arena our colors.”

The Elmen Center provides an on-campus venue, but only offers about 60 chairback seats and limited parking.  The plan proposed by SMG incorporates over 3600 chairback sets with over seven times more parking.  Additionally, two video boards and suites present opportunities for the athletic department to explore.

“There are things we think we can do with a video board to enhance the fan experience and make it even better than it is now,” associate athletic director Jeff Holm said, “and we can maybe intrigue some other Sioux Falls people and families to come out and start supporting Augustana and our student-athletes.”

While Augustana basketball games may reel in a few more fans from Sioux Falls as a whole, a move off campus could have an effect on student attendance, a growing problem regardless of the venue, Gross said.

Considering this, the athletic department analyzed statistics from the 2006-2007 stint at the arena.  On average, 398 students attended doubleheaders at the arena, while only 306 students attended doubleheaders at the Elmen Center.  If Augustana goes through with the move, the school would again offer shuttle bus services from campus to the arena for students and the pep band, mirroring 2006-2007.

Another possible reason for the move is the additional revenue for the college, according to Gross.

“There is a lot of new revenue potential at the Arena from signage, video boards, advertising, and suites,” Gross said.  “We have none of this revenue potential in the Elmen Center.  So paying our rental expenses at the Arena we project that we can make over six figures in new revenue…to directly benefit all of our 18 sports and 378 student-athletes.”

Additional revenue opens the possibility of a new Indoor Activities Center on campus, located east of the Elmen Center.  The proposed construct includes a new 200-meter track, among other amenities, to allow “outdoor sports” to practice, which would replace their current home in the Hall Sports Forum of the Elmen Center.  An Elmen Center with no “outdoor sports” means the ability to take out the indoor track and barriers, opening room for increased seating and other add-ons.

“The ideal is having an on-campus facility that can support all of the things that we would like to do for the fan experience and the student experience,” Holm said.

The athletic department will make a recommendation that will then go to the college administration to make the final decision of whether or not to sign a 5-year lease to play all doubleheaders at the Arena, with an option to opt out after two years.

No deal has been agreed on between the two parties as of Tuesday night.