Arena Hero

More Than An Arena

By Peter Carrels

Adjacent to the iconic DakotaDome, the new Sanford Coyote Sports Center presents a low-slung, clean-cut appearance that conceals its substantial contents. You’d hardly guess that a beautiful 6,000-seat arena, an expansive strength-conditioning center, a state-of-the-art athletic training facility and lots of stellar academic spaces are housed within its concrete, metal and glass facade. It’s not that the building’s understated exterior is aesthetically unappealing. But the investment emphasis of this structure was on the meat, not the skin.

A long walk down a wide hallway from where you enter the arena’s lobby are doors leading to four of the university’s premiere professional programs. On the first day of the 2017 fall semester, inside the arena, USD’s Division I athletes were preparing for an upcoming volleyball match versus the University of Utah. In classrooms, labs and training facilities elsewhere in the building students were learning about assignments and expectations as the school year began.

Students in Robin Ammon’s sport management class - part of the kinesiology and sport management major - discovered the exciting, challenging details of a demanding project that will occupy much of their semester. They will help organize and manage the 2017 South Dakota high school football championship games held inside the nearby DakotaDome in November. Divided into three groups, these students will oversee major tasks related to the multi-day event, including marketing/social media, facility operations/event management and arranging/scheduling volunteers.

‘We’re excited about the new facilities. There’s been an increase in student interest in our programs.’
—Robin Ammon, Ed.D., kinesiology and sport management division chair

At the same time, two occupational therapy students in a nearby training space were explaining to a USD basketball player how to utilize the Dynavision2, a unique technology that can increase peripheral vision and sharpen divided-attention skills. The athlete performed the exercise, then trotted a short distance to one of the sport center’s practice courts, joining her teammates for a pre-season workout.

An Interprofessional Approach

Arena 1In the spacious USD athletic training facility one room away from where the OT exercise occurred, several physical therapy students were learning about the features associated with an underwater treadmill. They reviewed a trio of monitors that reveal a patient’s physical movements beneath the water’s surface, and manipulated the treadmill’s adjustable angle. Not far away an injured football player soaking in a whirlpool tub consulted with a physical therapy faculty member and an athletic trainer regarding his recuperation schedule.

Kinesiology students in their section of the building learned about the science of human movement in their biomechanics lab. Assistant Professor Talin Louder explained an optical motion camera, electromyography and an isokinetic dynamometer.

“Biomechanics is one branch of kinesiology,” explained Louder. “It integrates information from many disciplines including physics, engineering, anatomy, sport science, rehabilitation, medicine neuroscience and more.”

Academic programs located in the Sanford Coyote Sports Center began offering coursework and other training when kinesiology and sport management first occupied their offices, classrooms and labs in July 2016. One year later occupational therapy and physical therapy welcomed students to those programs’ new spaces.

Kinesiology and sport management offers undergraduate and graduate programs that are allied with the university’s School of Education. Prior to being situated in the sports center, this division of study was centered in Patterson Hall. Occupational therapy and physical therapy are exclusively
graduate-level programs, affiliated with the university’s School of Health Sciences, and each moved from the Lee Medical Building, located on the opposite side of the campus.

Not only are there notable advantages for USD athletics to have these academic programs inside the new sports complex, and vice versa, there are also prospects for the academic programs to work with one another.

“We’re excited about opportunities to collaborate with occupational therapy and physical therapy,” said Ammon. “I’d like there to be a symbiotic relationship with these fine programs.”

That the programs work together to improve educational opportunities for their students dovetails nicely with the emerging health care concept known as interprofessionalism. This approach holds that health care is better delivered to patients and families by cooperating teams of professionals, rather than health care practitioners working in isolation. USD’s School of Health Sciences is already a national leader in educating its students using this philosophy.

In some respects a direct relationship connecting the programs already exists. Eleven percent of those enrolled in USD’s physical therapy program possess an undergraduate degree in kinesiology from USD. There are fewer kinesiology graduates in the occupational therapy program, but Ammon and Barbara Brockevelt, chair of occupational therapy, see the relationship expanding.

“We’d like to see more of their graduates entering our program,” said Brockevelt.

Training for the Future

Students graduating from Ammon’s growing sport management program find interesting, rewarding work in the sports industry. His office walls are decorated with the logos of professional teams where his graduates have landed. There’s a banner from the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, and from professional soccer teams in Atlanta, Portland and Denver.

“We also have many graduates working in intercollegiate athletics as well as at businesses like Nike,” Ammon said.

Sport management students benefit from hands-on learning as they assist USD’s athletic programs. These students help sports information staff by operating cameras during matches, games and competitions. They gather statistics and compile information about teams and athletes. They work with sports marketing, facility management and other areas involving the business and management side of intercollegiate sports at USD. The advantages associated with the proximity of their program to USD’s athletic venues and offices cannot be overstated.

‘The classrooms in this building are the highest-tech classrooms at USD. ... Our students and faculty are thrilled with the facilities here.’
—Lana Svien, Ph.D., physical therapy department chair

Kinesiology, occupational therapy and physical therapy also benefit from the nearness to the USD athletic department.

Arena 2“Critical advantages of the new facility include opportunities for OT to work with patients or clients - both community members and USD athletes,” explained Brockevelt. “For example, a group of OT students and faculty are working with the women’s softball team using the Dynavision2 technology to improve their performance skills. This helps our students learn about the technology and working with patients, and it also benefits the softball players and team.”

OT faculty member Diana Feldhacker elaborated on Brockevelt’s description of the benefits associated with being located in the sports center. “We are excited to be working with athletes to enhance their performance or to help them rebuild skills following injury, including those related to vision, cognition, balance and upper extremity function.”

Combining Athletics with Academics

Brandon Ness teaches, researches and provides therapy services as a faculty member in the physical therapy (PT) department. He also works closely with the athletic department’s athletic trainers. Ness, who has earned a doctorate in PT plus a rare and valuable certification as a sports clinical specialist, came to USD from Kansas State University.

“USD is probably the region’s only Division I program that has its athletic training facility located down the hall from a Doctorate in Physical Therapy program,” he reported. “This is highly beneficial to USD’s student athletes and to USD’s PT students. Also, because of our location in the sports center I am able to closely work with USD’s athletic trainers in a highly collaborative relationship.”

The physical therapy department is now developing a new residency in sports physical therapy.

“Because we’re able to link athletics and academics in the new facility,” explained Lana Svien, chair of the physical therapy department, “we’re able to create this residency. It will be a unique and useful situation, as our residents will be working with Division I student-athletes.”

David Herbster is head of USD’s athletic department, and he is justifiably proud of the sports center. He reminds a visitor about the upgrades to heath care and training for university student athletes because of the new facilities and new relationships.

“With this facility we have created the most comprehensive sports medicine care program for our student-athletes,” said Herbster. “They have access to our staff of 10 certified athletic trainers, two physical therapists, two occupational therapists and the combined knowledge of our kinesiology, physical therapy and occupational therapy faculties, plus the relevant facilities associated with those excellent programs.”

Arena 3Herbster added that the sports center offers rehabilitation and training features that “rival other Division I sports medicine centers.” USD’s new training center, he noted, contains cutting-edge treatment and diagnostic technologies and resources that dramatically elevate USD’s conditioning, fitness and healing capabilities.

“Our athletic training room serves as the sports medicine hub for our student athletes,” he explained. “It houses a hydrotherapy room that includes hot and cold plunge pools and a top-of-the line underwater treadmill. Additionally, our physician support team has access to three state-of-the art clinical exam rooms. In addition to visits by the best physicians, orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine experts, we have a sports nutritionist, team dentist, team chiropractor and mental health counselors. We truly are full service for our student athletes.”

Advanced Equipment, Better Results

Another notable feature of the sports center is the Dave and Paula Hultgren Family Weight Room, a strength training facility that provides Coyote athletes with an advantage over their competition. This expansive 7,500 square-foot space features 24 custom training racks of weights and 12 Olympic plyometric platforms. Ten feet off the ground, secured to the ceiling, and spanning 22 feet is a fitness system conceived by USD’s head strength and conditioning coach Jevon Bowman, and appropriately called the Coyote Bridge. There are three of these “monkey bar” type assemblies in the weight room offering athletes a unique approach to enhancing upper body and grip strength and agility. There are also five high-speed (30 mile per hour), high-angle (30 degree) treadmills, a technology offered by no other FCS university in the nation. A fueling station for pre- and post-training nutritional needs rounds out the impressive offerings in the strength conditioning area.

“This is the most advanced facility in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and the Summit League,” explained Bowman.

The new building also boasts classrooms, labs and clinics that possess ample space and superb technology. “The classrooms in this building are the
highest-tech classrooms at USD,” Svien praised. “These are exceptional teaching spaces. Our students and faculty are thrilled with the facilities here.”

‘We have always provided Division I care to our student-athletes. Now we have a facility that rivals any other Division I sports medicine center.’
—Dave Herbster, USD athletics director

Not only are classrooms bigger and technological applications broader, there are notable levels of versatility. Lessons on individual laptops are easily transferred to large monitors serving an entire room. Eight fully-wired small-group meeting rooms are always busy with students working on team projects. Patients have private spaces for therapy sessions. OT and PT have children’s therapy rooms they did not have in their previous facilities. The program also has a specially designed simulation apartment to train students who will one day work with patients with disabilities. Researchers in each of the disciplines can easily access new technologies and gather comfortably around their subjects in roomy lab-clinic spaces. One classroom contains adjustable (drop or raise) tables that double as desks, so students can sit and take notes during a lecture or stand and examine a knee or a shoulder at the same place.

“The flexibility of the classrooms and many of the spaces is very impressive,” noted Svien.

Indeed, impressive is a word often used by those describing the arena as well as the nonarena portions of the newest building on the USD campus. The anticipatory and strategic wisdom of delivering several of USD’s health programs into the new athletic facility is now more fully understood and appreciated. The value of providing extra and exceptional care to USD’s student athletes while also offering so much hands-on experience to students studying physical therapy, occupational therapy and kinesiology is increasingly recognized as one of the primary advantages of the Sanford Coyote Sports Center.