AUGUSTANA ENTERS FIVE-YEAR CONTRACT WITH ARENA

THOMAS ELNESS

tkelness12@ole.augie.edu

Augustana College announced Monday the school’s signed agreement to play all women’s and men’s basketball doubleheaders at the Sioux Falls Arena beginning next season.

The move to the north side of town will mean leaving the Elmen Center, the home of Augustana Viking basketball since 1990, with the exception of a stint at the arena in 2006-2007.  The move became possible when the Sioux Falls Skyforce, Stampede and Storm all left for new venues, leaving the 1961 venue vacant.

SMG, the building manager, will make the changes Augustana requested before deciding to move, including painting the gym and foyer Augustana colors and adding school banners.

Despite being older than the on-campus Elmen Center, the arena offers better parking, two video boards, a vast amount of chairback seating and suite seating.  The arena also provides better access to concessions, restrooms, and locker rooms.  The Elmen Center will continue to host Augustana basketball for single games, all scheduled for the beginning of the season.

The move to an off-campus venue allows the college to consider renovations to the Elmen Center, and create an opportunity to look into building an on-campus indoor activities center.  However, the move off campus makes games further away for students.

Student shuttles will run between campus at the arena in an effort to allow all students to go to games, but not all students like the move off campus.

“Most people are opposed to change now, especially when it requires extra effort,” sophomore Katherine Van Gerpen said.  “I’m hoping that the student body will embrace this opportunity and see the potential.  The purpose is not to make it harder for students and fans to attend games. It’s to play in a more accommodating and contemporary facility, enhancing the game for players and fans, and to help raise money for a new activities center on campus.”

Sophomore Michael Blankespoor also believes the move will be a good thing, overall.

“While an on-campus location would be more convenient, I believe the Arena is a better place for the games than the Elmen Center,” Blankespoor said.  “I think that moving to the arena is the right choice for now, but I hope that the basketball games can return to a facility on campus in the future.”

Augustana will have the option to opt out of the five-year contract after two years, if desired.  Athletic director Bill Gross estimates the deal will deliver over six figures in new revenue to be used for all of the college sports teams.