Alumni Green project will ‘revitalize’ west side of Medary

A $10-million project will fund an Alumni Association expansion onto the South Dakota State University Foundation building as well as a new university house for the next president and their family.

About 75 percent of the funding will be related to the Alumni Center while the remaining 25 percent will be put toward the new university house.

“We decided it was important to have a partnership to give [the Alumni Association] some additional space,” Steve Erpenbach, president and CEO of the SDSU Foundation, said. “At the same time, we need a new university house…Both were just to the point where there were limitations in those facilities.”

The current alumni center is used and in demand for dinners and receptions but has limited space, Erpenbach said.

This project, called the Alumni Green project, will revitalize the west side of Medary Avenue, said Andi Fouberg, president and CEO of the Alumni Association.

“Tompkins Alumni Center was constructed 40 years ago when SDSU was much smaller,” Fouberg said. “The growth of campus spurred the need to consider a larger space for the kinds of activities that could happen if the space was available.”

One event hosted by the Alumni Association is the Distinguished Alumni Banquet, which honors six outstanding SDSU alumni each year. The event, held on Friday of Hobo Week, has taken place off campus due to these limitations.

“Right now we have that event at the Swiftel Center, the farthest point from campus in Brookings,” Fouberg said. “We lose out on some of our ability to reconnect them to campus when we are nowhere near campus.”

Space is one of the most important things to consider when talking about the ability to host alumni and friends and to build those relationships, she said.

“It seems kind of unfortunate that we recognize people as distinguished alumni but we don’t have a campus facility for that,” Erpenbach said. “With the number of alumni we have, there’s just a need for the Alumni Association to have a more modern and larger facility to be able to continue to work with alumni.”

The expansion will have sit-down space for up to 250 people. Erpenbach said there’s also a lot to be gained in having the Foundation and Alumni Association under the same roof.

Woodbine Cottage, the current home of SDSU’s president, would have difficulties if the next president has older parents or younger children due to lack of space and functional ability.

“We want to provide environment that allows a president to have an appropriate place to live and enough room to work with in there,” Erpenbach said.

The new university house will include a space for public gatherings and dinners and an area for the president and their family to live a normal life.

Funding for the Alumni Green project is being raised privately through a joint effort by Alumni Center and the Foundation. Fundraising is ongoing.

Some students, including senior graphic design major Brent Chester, agree that fostering relationships while at SDSU will ensure their loyalty to the university in the future.

“I imagine it’s important to feel loyalty and connected to your school,” Chester said. “If you have a family, you will want your kids to feel like they’re a part of the SDSU community, too.”

Since the Foundation and Alumni Association will raise the funds privately, he said it’s comforting that student fees won’t be raised.

“I think it makes sense that the alumni and donors are investing in something that will benefit them more directly,” Chester said.

According to Erpenbach, people will see the area start to change in the middle of May and construction on the project will begin in June.

He said they hope to have the Alumni Association addition and the new university house completed by fall of 2017.