The Barn’s pivotal contribution to SDSU history


Whether cheering for South Dakota State University’s basketball team, competing in Little International or waiting in line to register for class, the Intramural Building, or “The Barn,” is a nostalgic structure for past students and faculty. 

Wes Tschetter, vice president of finance and business, can still recall his experiences in The Barn in the late 1960s.

“Very loud, very full, students sitting right up to the ‘out-of-bounds’ lines and the radio broadcaster trying to call the game with all the background noise,” Tschetter said of The Barn during basketball games.

One of Tschetter’s favorite memories is sitting in the front row across from the team during home games. He specifically remembers watching the 1969 powerhouse team of John Thomas, Mel Thomas, Guy Mackner, Gene Zulk, John Eidsness and Clyde Hagin take on, as he said, some of the toughest Midwest teams in Division 2 basketball.

Tschetter attended games when SDSU’s basketball team claimed North Central Conference championship titles in 1968 and 1969. 

Wrestling matches are part of The Barn’s history, as well as Little “I.”

Little “I” is the largest two-day agricultural exposition in the country and The Barn was the largest facility of its kind at the time where the event was hosted.

Eventually, Little “I” spread out across campus as it grew and then moved to the Animal Science Arena, but the event is the reason the building is known as The Barn today.

Little “I” was held in The Barn from 1941 to 1977. The Barn was the backdrop for the 28th Little “I” general manager, Ray Weick’s, first Little “I” in spring 1947.

“The floor of the gym was covered with building paper, then covered with planks loaned by the local lumber yard and covered with 30 tons of sawdust dyed green,” Weick said.

Directly after the end of Little “I”, the green wood shavings, which are a Little “I” tradition, were stowed away in preparation for the next year. The gym floor was swept to be ready for athletics and physical education classes the next day. 

Most students found their way to The Barn at some point as class registration was located in the building. Tschetter recalls waiting in line at The Barn to register for courses at the beginning of the semester.

“There was no such thing as online registration,” Tschetter said, “just ‘in line’ where you saw your friends and got acquainted with other students while you waited in line for a course — and hopefully you got the section you wanted.”

Built in 1918, The Barn was originally built as an armory that held 3,000 and continuously evolved to fit campus needs. Sporting events were held in the $85,500 gymnasium until 1973 when student populations reached 6,400.

Winter and spring graduations as well as concerts were held in The Barn due to the building’s size.

Today, the Barn is used for intramurals and some academic courses.

The campus is continuously changing, but the The Barn stands as a reminder of the rich history that encompasses SDSU.