- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 9, 2015

BROOKINGS, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota State’s blue-and-yellow checkerboard end zones will soon have a surrounding structure befitting a Division I football program.

The Jackrabbits are a year away from transitioning out of the 50-year-old Coughlin-Alumni Stadium and into the new $65 million Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.

But even those attending Saturday’s home opener against Southern Utah will notice dramatic improvements.

What was once considered a state-of-the-art scoreboard has been replaced with a 100-foot by 31-foot high-definition video display board that can show a combination of live video, instant replay, statistical graphics and animations.

The old end zone, with its student section and visitor-side bleachers reminiscent of a high school field, has a new concrete seating structure that wraps around half of the stadium, boosting this year’s seating capacity to 17,000 and providing fans with their own bathrooms and concessions.

“I think for everybody, there’s going to be a bounce in our step,” football coach John Stiegelmeier said. “This has a whole different feeling. This has a feeling of a true stadium.”

The Jackrabbits (1-0) are coming off a 41-38 upset road win over Kansas, the school’s first victory against an FBS opponent.

Cam Jones, a senior tight end, said it has been amazing to watch the construction progress and he can’t wait to take the field. He expects that the enclosed feel and extra fans will create a loud atmosphere that boosts home-field advantage.

“You’ll definitely hear the extra couple thousand people in there,” Jones said. “It will have a special feel to it.”

The stadium is being funded through $36 million in bonds to be paid off with stadium revenue, $19.8 million in private donations, $7.2 million from the SDSU Foundation and $2 million from the university.

Other upgrades include a new visitors’ locker room and the construction of a large entrance structure surrounding the old home-side grandstand that’ll continue throughout the 2015 season.

At the end of the season, the old grandstand will be demolished and replaced with a modernized seating bowl that will boost capacity to about 19,350, according to Jeff Holm, South Dakota State’s senior associate athletic director for facilities and operations. Once complete, the school will add community suites, executive suites, loge level boxes and club seats offering access to a large indoor bar and lounge. Artificial turf will replace the natural grass in 2016, too.

School officials estimate that the new digs will boost ticket income from about $500,000 per season to $1.6 million while bringing in an additional $2.3 million from the premium luxury seating options.

Stiegelmeier said the new facilities are already helping with recruiting.

“It’s been a really easy sell in terms of the commitment of our administration,” he said. “This is proof that they support football and want football to have what we need to compete at a high level.”

Saturday’s game has a chance to break Coughlin-Alumni Stadium’s attendance record of 16,498, which was set two years ago against North Dakota State and aided by temporary bleachers and a standing-room-only area.

“It’s going to be nuts, a completely different atmosphere,” said Cole Langer, a junior defensive lineman from Dell Rapids. “Hopefully it’s a lot louder and will be a lot of fun to play in.”


Follow Dirk Lammers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ddlammers

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