Events center great for Jacks

Marcus Traxler

Conference tournament’s future looks promising with yes vote on new arena.

It will be built; we’ll see if they come.

On Nov. 9, Sioux Falls citizens voted to approve building a new events center. The effect of that decision will have a long standing influence on what happens with SDSU and the Summit League.

A $115 million, 12,000-seat arena will be adjacent to the current Sioux Falls Arena and Convention Center site in Sioux Falls. Expected to open in 2014, the new events center will replace the duties of the 50-year arena that has been showing signs of wear for quite some time.

The Sioux Falls Arena has hosted the Summit League Basketball Championships for the last three seasons and will continue to do so through 2014, when the contract is up but Sioux Falls’ chances to extend the tenure will be improved with a new building.

“I am thrilled about the new arena coming to Sioux Falls.  The upgraded facility will have a very positive impact on our student-athletes as they compete in our Tournament, in addition our fans will enjoy it as well,” Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple wrote in an email.

“I believe Sioux Falls will now be in a position to seek a first round NCAA tournament bid in Women’s Basketball and also many other events.  I will be working closely with the Sioux Falls Sports Commission to help submit bids for those events in the new arena,” Douple said.

The successful vote has many in the area happy about the prospects for the new arena, including some of SDSU’s athletic representatives.

Construction on the new building is scheduled to begin in August 2012 and will be paid for with the sale of bonds and existing sales tax revenue.

“I think from an SDSU perspective I think it’s great,” SDSU women’s basketball coach Aaron Johnston said. “It’s a chance for us to potentially play games down there. Obviously, if a Summit League Tournament can be there in the future, that would be a great venue for it. I think that it is wonderful and long-awaited.”

“I think it is a very positive development for the state of South Dakota. How it impacts us is certainly with the Summit League Basketball Tournament, having a venue like the Events Center is planned to be, would be a big deal for the league, hopefully to give us a good opportunity to have Sioux Falls to remain competitive in the bidding process. Having a new arena certainly won’t hurt,” Jackrabbits athletic director Justin Sell said.

Sioux Falls was challenged by Tulsa, Okla., in June when the tournament bid was awarded to South Dakota’s biggest city for 2013 and 2014. With Oral Roberts now leaving the Summit League for the Southland Conference, Tulsa no longer appears to be a viable option to host the four-day event. Other location options include Omaha, suburban Detroit and Fort Wayne, Ind., but Sioux Falls has set new attendance records and brought in big advertising dollars for the conference since moving the tournament there in 2009.

Sell said the university has been approached by both Sioux Falls and Rapid City groups about moving SDSU home games but the conversations have not turned serious. Sports considered for home games somewhere else in South Dakota have included non-revenue sports like volleyball, baseball and softball.

“If we were going to do one of the bigger ones, like men’s and women’s basketball, the only time that we would look at doing it would be for holiday-type tournament or an off-time of year when our students are off campus. I don’t want to take home games away from our students. It would take a lot to take a bigger attended game out of Brookings,” Sell said, adding that the university will not move a home football game off campus.

Johnston noted that he personally has made numerous trips throughout the Upper Midwest and is happy that there will be a legitimate venue option closer to home.

“On a personal side, I also think it’s great. People will say that it’s not a part of the taxes that I pay and I understand that. I’ve driven to Minneapolis, I’ve driven to Sioux City, I’ve driven to Omaha to go to events and concerts and it’ll be fun to have a place in Sioux Falls, personally, that family and friends can go down and enjoy some of the activities,” Johnston said.