The Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic complex opens its doors

SDSU celebrated the grand opening of the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

Athletes stood upon the field while students, community members and fans filled the stands for a series of speeches lasting roughly 40 minutes leading up to a ribbon cutting that formally opened the facility.

“I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, wow. When you walk into a place like this facility, wow is the word that comes that comes to my mind,” said South Dakota Board of Regents Vice President Randy Schaefer.

Schaefer later said that he expects the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex, SJAC, to help recruiting and retention – not only for student athletes but also for students who just want to be fans.

“Any student or potential student that wants to be a part of and identify with a quality Division I athletics experience, well here you go – the first one of its kind in the region,” Schaefer said.

Speaking next was Sanford Health Executive Chief of Staff and Vice President of Public Affairs Mike Begeman

“When Sanford Health invests in colleges and universities, we don’t do that just to put our name on buildings,” Begeman said. “Sometimes, to be honest, we take a little heat for that, but when I look around today at the investment in South Dakota State University, in the people and the programs that develop young people, that makes a teacher like myself, a former teach and coach like myself, really proud.”

Track and Field’s Mary Wirth represented the student athletes at the podium. The fifth-year senior from Sioux Falls owns the SDSU high jump school record and has garnered 20 career wins.

“So I have my own little list of thank yous,” With said. “First and foremost to God for pouring out so many blessings on this university during my time here and thank you to all the financial supporters, the trustees, the former Jacks athletes, the current Jacks athletes, the student body and all the staff on campus. Also, a huge thank you to all those who worked on and in forming this facility.”

Wirth said that SJAC was a big reason she decided to redshirt her junior year, giving her this senior season to enjoy the facility.

“SJAC will be the site of invaluable interactions for us as student athletes,” Wirth said. “Here we will meet our future teammates, our trainers and coaches – we’ll form everlasting bonds. Here we will accomplish feats that we never thought possible and here we will develop into the students and athletes and people God intended us to be.”

Athletic Director Justin Sell served as the final speaker of the afternoon. He talked about fulfilling long term goals which drove them to such an undertaking.

“We have a phenomenal tradition of winning, of winning the right way, of prioritizing academics and doing things at a big level,” Sell said. “… We could have built a much smaller building with a much smaller track and football field and it would have been great because it would have been better than anything we had but we didn’t do that. We thought about long term, ‘how can we make this resonate for a long period of time?’”

Sell went to talk about what the facility could lead to, such as developing All-Americans, national championship teams, and possibly even Olympians.

“It will allow our student athletes to pursue every dream they have and get the most out of their talent,” Sell said.

Following Sell’s address and the ribbon cutting everyone was invited to wander about and explore the new facility.  

The 149,284-square foot facility is the largest indoor practice facility in Division I athletics and features an eight-lane, 300-meter track which is only one of five collegiate indoor tracks of that size in the nation. Inside the track is an 80-yard football field plus end zones at each end and is composed of a soy-based Astroturf.