$10M SDSU indoor rodeo arena bill passes first committee

Annie Reinke, Reporter

A state Senate bill that would allow South Dakota State University to build a $10 million indoor rodeo practice facility passed through the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee late last week with a unanimous vote.   

Senate Bill 63 was introduced in the Senate and moved to the committee Jan. 15.   

 Since it has passed the Senate committee, it will move to the Joint Appropriations Committee, where its funding will be discussed later this month.  

 The facility would include indoor and outdoor arenas, offices and classrooms, boarding stables and a storage shed for feed and equipment, according to the bill’s language. It would be built on the 28-acre lot near the Meadows Apartments on the northwest side of SDSU’s campus.  

 The Board of Regents is asking for an allocation of $6 million from the state government and to allow for construction of the arena. The facility would be worth $10 million, with $4 million of the total cost coming from private sources.  

 Last year, a similar bill was introduced in the legislature that asked for $10 million from the state. That legislation failed in the House Education Committee by one vote.   

 But hopes are higher for the bill this time around. Blake Pulse, SDSU Students’ Association president, has advocated in Pierre for this bill, and he said its chances are better this year. He called its unanimous vote in the committee “a big win.”  

  There has been a standing sentiment in Pierre that funding for sports facilities should not be supported by the state legislature, Pulse said. But, in the committee hearing, it was argued that when the DakotaDome needed repairs, state funding was used.   

 The fact that $4 million is expected to be raised privately is a positive development for those who want the bill to pass. 

 “I think with the less money ask, and changing the precedent, it has a pretty good shot,” Pulse said.   

 Currently, the rodeo team rents the Swiftel Center for 60 days a year to practice during the winter months. The team budgets about $10,000 to $12,000 a year for that rent, and members are obligated to remove the dirt and equipment from the Swiftel whenever an event, such as a concert, is scheduled at the facility while the team is renting the space.   

 Rodeo coach Ronald Skovly didn’t want to comment on the bill itself, but he likes the idea of having the proposed facility. 

 “A rodeo facility, with everything in one location, would save our team hours each day without having to transport practice stock or private team horses to practice, as well as setting up or tearing down temporary practice arenas when needing to practice inside for any period of time,” he said.  

 There have also been reports of rodeo athletes who decided against attending South Dakota State because the school lacks an updated facility, something other college rodeo programs offer.  

 “Needless to say, facilities like these would be very beneficial to current team members if we had them now, and (they) would also be very helpful in recruiting future team members,” Skovly said.