SDSU celebrates successes as indoor facility work begins

Marcus Traxler Editor-in-Cheif

The SDSU football team easily took care of Butler on Saturday but the day was already a victory in the minds of many Jackrabbit sports fans. 

The university hosted a celebration outside Coughlin-Alumni Stadium to celebrate the start of construction on the new Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex, SDSU’s new indoor athletic facility, which will become a much-welcomed home for outdoor sports during South Dakota’s colder months.

The S-JAC, as it is now being referred to in short-form, went over $30 million in money raised with a $1 million contribution from Brookings Health announced Saturday, and will span 161,500-square feet and will be located directly north of the Dykhouse Student-Athlete Center. During the ceremony, supporters and dignitaries lauded the university for making a once lofty dream a reality. The building could be finished in time for use during Fall 2014.

S-JAC will include an eight-lane, 300-meter track and a 100-yard football turf field, along with facilities for athletic training, sports medicine, strength and conditioning and other types of physical therapy. 

Sanford Health provided the biggest contribution of $10 million to the project drive, which began in August 2012. In addition to the donations from the two health-care providers, other “lead donors” include First Bank and Trust, Larson Manufacturing and the Dale and Pat Larson family. 

“Most of the time you’re lucky to have one lead donor on a project like this,” said Justin Sell, who serves as SDSU’s athletic director. “We had five.”

SDSU President David Chicoine said that there’s been 18 capital projects during the last few years and of those, this one stands out among all of them. He said the opening of the Dykhouse building in 2010 gave those involved the confidence that the university could build a facility of this size. 

“This facility will support all of our students. Its impact is significant,” Chicoine said of the new building.

Chicoine said partnerships are what the university work on all levels and he said Sanford, in particular, will be helpful in advancing work in the classroom and will be critical in helping to develop a Ph.D. program in biochemistry. 

“A place we can call home”

The building will provide a place for outdoor sports to practice when the weather is poor outside, a necessity in the Upper Midwest and there was no better example than last spring. The Jacks’ softball team never played a home game in Brookings because of wet and snowy weather and about half of spring practice for the Jackrabbits’ football team was called off because of the weather, including the annual spring scrimmage. 

Perhaps no team will benefit more than the track and field and cross country programs, who haven’t had a home meet on campus in years because there is not a quality track and usually have to practice in the upper level of Frost Arena. 

“We’re going to be able to achieve things that we didn’t think was possible,” sophomore track and field athlete Lori Foltz said. “For us track and field athletes, it will finally be a place we can call home.” 

Brookings resident and president of the South Dakota Board of Regents Dean Krogman specifically noted the contributions of students to the end product when it comes to building new facilities on campus. 

“I can’t congratulate anyone without congratulating the students,” said Krogman, who graduated from SDSU. “They’re a big part of the bonding. They’re a big part of the maintenance. We wouldn’t be able to do this without them.”

The ceremonial process of dignitaries using gold-plated shovels to turn dirt was bypassed because official work has already begun on the building. Construction equipment moved onto the site two weeks ago and started pushing soil and evening out the ground to be worked on.