VERMILLION, S.D. -- The era of University of South Dakota basketball in the DakotaDome ends this weekend with the final men’s and women’s games, and then the focus will shift to the opening this fall of the new attached arena that will also host women’s volleyball games.
Fans hope the $66 million Sports Performance and Enhancement Complex with its 6,000 seats injects new excitement into USD athletics.
“I think the new arena will improve the game experience for players, students and fans,” said Robert McCauley, a junior Coyote Crazy and regular basketball fan. “I hope that students will feel closer to the game, not only in the stands but a part of the action.”
Dating back to 1900, games were played in the “old armory,” which is known today as the Belbas Center. Men’s basketball moved in 1929 to the “new armory” (now the Al Neuharth Media Center), where games were played until the 1979 move to the Dome. The new armory had three basketball courts, a swimming pool and even a rifle range.
Kim Clodfelter, whose father, Dwane “Cloddy” Clodfelter, coached the 1958 men’s Coyote basketball team that won the national Divison II title, hopes the new arena brings back some of the excitement and intimacy that was a part of games at the armory.
“The arena had space for 3,000 and fans would be lined up at 4 p.m. to get a ticket for a 7 p.m. game,” Kim Clodfelter said. “The games were extremely popular and there was always more than 3,000 people at each game. … The fan environment that was at the new a armory brought the players more excitement.”
In the programs’ time in the Dome, the Coyote men’s and women’s basketball teams won several conference championships, most recently in 2010 for the men and 2014 and 2015 for the women.
The Coyote volleyball program began in 1974 and has made two appearances at the NCAA tournament, the last in 2007.
Besides new basketball and volleyball venues, the new arena includes practice courts, weight room, locker rooms, lounges and collaborative spaces for academic programs as well as classrooms, laboratory and clinical spaces.
“I think this is a very exciting addition to campus and I look forward to where it will take USD athletics,” McCauley said.