- Associated Press - Friday, June 13, 2014

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The growth and construction at South Dakota universities reflects two of the schools’ recent ascent to NCAA Division I athletics status and the Board of Regents’ 10-year plan, said Board of Regents Executive Director Jack Warner.

Officials will break ground Tuesday on a $66 million arena at the University of South Dakota. South Dakota State University will open a new practice facility next fall and may start construction on a $65 million stadium by August. The two universities joined Division I, which is the top level of major colleges in athletics, within the last decade.

Warner said all of the state’s universities are growing modestly. He said SDSU had a growth spurt in 2010-11.

The new athletic venues will attract athletes and fans, and it might even make state universities more attractive to the NCAA for hosting post-season events.

“We’re always hopeful that we can host tournaments,” Warner said in an interview after the Board of Regents met earlier in the week. He pointed out another big reason for the upgrade: “There’s more demand for seats than we have seats available.”

The Board of Regents approved design plans in May for the 19,359-seat football stadium at SDSU in Brookings. It was funded by donors and with bonds intended to be repaid with revenue from the stadium once it’s open.

Warner said the existing stadium, which is over 50 years old, has “outlived its useful life.”

The school is also nearing completion of its Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex, a training space for student athletes. Justin Sell, director of athletics at SDSU said workers are pouring concrete and working on the floors for that facility, which may be open around Oct. 1.

USD’s project includes a 6,000-seat arena in Vermillion for basketball and volleyball. Much of the funding was provided by donors.

An academic building will connect the new basketball and volleyball arena to an existing complex with programs such as physical therapy. The academic facility used some funds from the higher education facilities fund. Twenty percent of student tuition dollars go into that fund.

Bryan Boettcher, sports information director at USD, said a lot of student athletes study subjects that will be located within the sports complex.

“I think that’s a terrific selling point,” Boettcher said.

Crews completed construction last summer on four residence halls and a student union expansion at SDSU. The new Architecture, Mathematics and Engineering Building is expected to be completed for the fall of 2015.

The Architecture, Mathematics and Engineering Building and a number of other academic facility projects are laid out in the Board of Regents’ Capital Improvement Plan, which was approved by the Legislature in 2012.

Many of those projects are just taking off such as the Jonas Science Renovation at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, which was approved for construction late May, and the Johnson Fine Arts Center project at Northern State University in Aberdeen, which has plans up for review on Monday.