Anyone who visited the DakotaDome this fall season would have seen the initial skeleton of the $26 million west side renovation project to be completed ahead of the 2020 football season opener on Sept. 19.
The stadia concrete seating was certainly the most noticeable structure in place, but those in attendance would also have seen the outlines of the suite and loge boxes resting just above the sidelines. Those who tailgated outside towards the end of the season could have observed the formation of two new west side entrances, effectively doubling the number of main entrances to the 40-year old structure.
But a lot of the good stuff taking place throughout the fall took place underneath all that new concrete. On the 100 level—the ground level framework has taken shape for all things Coyote football studentathletes. The list starts with a new locker room, big enough for a roster of 100 plus. Attached to the south of the locker room is a hydrotherapy and athletic training space. Across the hall is a players’ lounge with a nutrition center and TV monitors. There is also space for an equipment room and another spot for storage.
The 100 level is also home to the only remaining structure from the old—the men’s and women’s restrooms.
“That’s the only thing that’s still here,” said Brian Muehlbeier, senior construction project manager at USD. He has more than 32 years of construction experience.
“We are cleaning those up and there’s nothing wrong with them. They will be perfect for events like the farm show.”
The 300 level, or concourse level, is also more defined with space carved out for three concession stands, two men’s restrooms, two women’s restrooms, multiple family restrooms and a mother’s room. There are four different places to enter and exit the suites and loge areas from the concourse including three stairwells and an elevator.
One of the other luxuries is a full-service kitchen area that sits along the west wall between the two main entrances. The kitchen can provide team meals throughout the academic year, and service club and hospitality areas on game days or other happenings in and around the facility.
The 400 level above the concourse is part of a second phase to be completed ahead of the 2021 campaign. Football coaches’ offices, meeting rooms and a large team room for well over 100 will highlight the level. In addition, the plans call for two 16-person positional meeting rooms and two other meeting rooms for position groups of 10–12. There is also space for a reception area and recruiting lounge, resources similar to what is enjoyed currently by basketball and volleyball inside the Sanford Coyote Sports Center.
It’s an impressive list, and it’s simply amazing what the construction team has been able to accomplish all while working within the confines of the existing structure. “In my 30 years of experience, this was probably the most detail-oriented, high-skilled project that I’ve ever ran across,” said Muehlbeier. “Everything had to work out just perfect.”
“I wouldn’t say the project went without a hitch throughout football season, but it went remarkably well, which is a testament to the whole project team,” said Corey Jenkins, the Coyotes’ senior associate athletic director for facilities and operations. “There will always be surprises when working with a 40-year old structure, and we have had to be creative at times, but the project team has done a great job of getting past those hurdles while keeping everything on schedule.
“We want to make sure that, ahead of fall practice next year, that everything is buttoned up and completed and ready to go for both practice and the first football game. We are on target for that, which is what ultimately matters.”
What Happens Between Now and Then?
One of the next items on the list is replacing the lights with more efficient and colorless LED strips. It takes about a week to swap out a quarter of the lights, so it’s roughly a one-month project. The Coyote track and field team hosts an alumni meet Feb. 7-8, and the lights are expected to be installed by that time.
Many of the interior spaces will get drywall. The suites and loge boxes will become more defined, especially after the last of the concrete is poured. Another one of the more visual pieces is the installation of the new red chair back seats all along the stadia. The goal is to have those installed by the end of April.
Summer projects include the installation of a new sound system. There will be no more center-hung cables above the 50-yard line; instead, multiple speaker pods across each sideline will be installed, which is more in line with current industry standards for athletic facilities.
Finally, a small parking lot between the two new west side entrances will be paved and marked.
“There is not a bad seat in the house over here,” said Muehlbeier. “The humming of the lights will be gone, the sound will be clearer, and the new concourse will certainly meet expectations. The football staff, its players and recruits will be proud of what’s been created. We’ve come a long way in a short amount of time.”
In celebration of 40 years in the DakotaDome, USD unfolds a detailed story of how this iconic landmark came to be. Enjoy hearing many memorable moments told by some of the most impactful people that have helped write the story for this true South Dakota legacy.