Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex preps for Grand Opening

By Robert Myers Sports Editor

After a summer of progress, the long awaited Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex is scheduled to open its doors on Oct. 11.

“It’s been a phenomenal project,” said athletic director Justin Sell. “The contract date is November 1. We’ve stayed within budget and we’re ahead of time.”

Sell went on to offer the steelworkers much of the credit for the current completion expectations.

“If you think of the average daily temperature over the course of the winter, it’s absolutely phenomenal what those steel guys were able to do,” Sell said. 

Rather than scheduling the opening as a standalone event, the athletic department has plans to enlarge the event by holding it the weekend of the Missouri State home football game as well as the Hall of Fame inductions.

“We’re planning on doing a celebration grand opening on October 11,” Sell said. “It’s our Hall of Fame weekend and Rod DeHaven is going into the hall of fame along with Craig Cassen who also ran here. Then we’ve got a huge [cross country and track and field] reunion.”

Sell later said that some details might still need attention after the date, but he does not expect anything to interfere with the event.

Right now the main focuses include surfacing the track, a four to six week project, and finishing up the athletic training room, which is moving into the space previously occupied by the old weight room. The move will also allow the athletic department to triple the academic advising space.

At this point, the athletic department is still meeting to discuss the possibilities for building use. Sell said that the in-season teams and those teams competing for their championship season for building use. Sell said that the in-season teams and those competing for their championship season will be given priority, but he hopes to open it to more than just SDSU teams.

“There are opportunities for us to work with student groups and intramurals in this building and then obviously some community functions, and then what might we want to rent it for, certainly high school track meets and potentially nine-man football games, there’s a lot of different things we can do,” Sell said.

Those openings probably will not happen in the fall, because Sell said he plans to focus on getting things up and running in the fall and not to look too seriously at those further options until after the first of the year.

Sell also said he hopes to rent out the space to high school track meets, but the biggest track meet on the docket will be the Summit League Championships for which SDSU is on the list for.

“It’s probably the premier track facility in the upper Midwest, just based on the size and our ability to shrink a meet from 12 hours down to four,” Sell said.

Though declining to make comparisons with any other facilities in the country, Sell did speak about his vision of what the facility can do for SDSU athletics.

“When you look what we’re going to have the capability to do – to get our baseball and softball programs ready for their spring seasons, to have a track program that will have all-Americans and potential national champions and maybe some more Olympians like coach DeHaven was – those are the things that this facility is going to be able to do for us,” Sell said.

Sell acknowledged the recruiting benefits of having such a facility is reaping and will reap but said he was even more excited about how it will benefit the teams and student athletes at SDSU.

“The human performance piece is often overlooked and that includes the weight room, athletic training, hydrotherapy, physical therapy and then space for our team doctors,” Sell said.

Because of the facility now all the pieces for the care and prevention of facilities can now occur in the same place and to a larger extent, something that Sell is certain will help the student Athletes at SDSU.

“We can do all of those things right there together with the right people and the right rooms and equipment to treat our student athletes,” Sell said. “And that probably will be the busiest space and maybe have the biggest impact on our student athletes.”

Seeing the building almost completed, Sell said he is continually amazed and declared the facility had exceeded his expectations.

“When you walk in and see the volume that’s there and now to walk in and see some of the finishing touches, the trim work, the artificial turf going down with the logo and the checkerboard end zones,” Sell said. “When all those pieces come together it’s mindboggling that that’s here in Brookings, South Dakota.”