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USF has big ideas for new stadium


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http://www.argusleader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051016/SPORTS0204/510160341/1002/SPORTS

With the announcement of a $3.2 million gift from Sioux Valley hospital, the University of Sioux Falls Cougars are virtually assured of playing football games in their own stadium for the 2007 season.

If plans are followed, the facility on the corner of 69th St. and Cliff Ave. could be the most appealing stadium in Sioux Falls with high-tech scoreboards, elevators, and seatbacks for the bleachers.

But there's more to USF's plan than just giving its football team its first permanent home.

The Cougars make no secret of their desire to bring other programs into the stadium and create a facility like Howard Wood Field that features both college and high school events.

Accomplishing that goal, however, won't be easy.

USF has set high standards for its athletic facilities, but attracting other programs means convincing schools to set aside traditions like hosting events at their schools or even threatening a school's traditional success at certain sports.

USF athletic director Willie Sanchez said he thinks the new stadium will be a boon to the whole region.

"I think it just gives another option," says Sanchez. "This is a community thing - everyone is welcome."

USF almost has one school coming already. Sioux Falls Christian High School, located right next to the USF stadium site, is ironing out a joint-use agreement with the Cougars.

But the biggest challenge on USF's wish list figures to be the Sioux Falls public schools. The Sioux Falls School District owns and runs Howard Wood Field and those schools play all their home football games at that facility.

Top-notch field

If Sanchez and USF get their way with the details of the stadium, chances are people will want to be there.

In designing the stadium, the Cougars appear to have considered every idea.

"We'll have skyboxes, video rooms and working press rooms," Sanchez says. "The concession stands will be big enough to accommodate NFL exhibition games. The bleachers will have seat-backs. It'll have an elevator, a bathroom in the press box, hopefully two scoreboards - one with video. The women's bathroom will be bigger than the men's so they don't have to stand in line."

In order to win over doubters, Sanchez has set his sights high, hoping that it will lead to more donors for the project.

"We feel that people give to excellence - that when you have a first rate, state of the art facility people get more involved," Sanchez says.

The football stadium is the biggest part of USF's athletic project at the 69th and Cliff site which is slated to also include two turf fields (one in the stadium) another grass field, a track, and a field house that contains locker and meeting rooms, a weight room and athletic offices.

The first turf field was completed late this past summer and the Cougars are practicing on it now.

Battling traditions

All that good stuff has made Sanchez eager to try to sell his new digs to others in the region.

Most notably among those are Sioux Falls Christian and Harrisburg high schools.

Both Christian and Harrisburg have had open discussions about getting involved, yet both say a final decision will be up to the school board.

But neither school denied that the opportunity to play in a brand new stadium certainly is enticing.

"The USF facility is going to be a very nice, state of the art (field)," said Harrisburg principal Keith Huber. "If you compare it to what we have, you're looking at a great opportunity. On the other hand, there are people who are afraid to take those activities out of Harrisburg. They like the idea of having home events here in town."

At Sioux Falls Christian, the Charger soccer and track teams hope to be using the facilities soon.

The bigger question for the school is if it will start a football program now that there will be a home stadium in their backyard.

"Certainly there's an interest," said Christian athletic director Jim Groen. "We've formed a football committee and we had an open forum with them just the other night. We're excited about the potential."

The only potential roadblock is that at a small school with an outstanding soccer program (Christian won the Class A state title last weekend), there is concern about whether there are enough boys to fill a team without hurting the soccer squad.

"We're wondering if the school is large enough to be competitive in soccer and football," Groen said. "We're real proud of our soccer team and the tradition we've had. On the other hand, I'd like to at least look at adding a sport like football where we can get more kids involved. Participation is a big part of our school's mission and there are boys at this school for whom football could be an option."

Sanchez said that as football and track events add up at Howard Wood Field, he'd love to host Sioux Falls public schools at the facility as well.

Lincoln High School, for instance, travels to Howard Wood Field every day for football practice, but the school is actually closer to USF's growing facility.

However, Lincoln can't make the decision to move on its own, and Sioux Falls school district activities director Mark Meile is in no hurry to let them go.

"There has been no discussion on that nor would I have any plans to," Meile said. "It wouldn't make much sense for us to have a stadium like (Howard Wood) and then go play in theirs."

Regardless of how many of these outside ventures USF succeeds with, the recent developments will clearly have an effect on the area sports scene.

"I think it will change the landscape," said Augustana athletic director Bill Gross. "Sioux Falls is growing and as this community grows there will continue to be needs for facilities and I think USF will be looking for ties."

The big tie, now, of course, is Sioux Valley.

Sioux Valley is already a premier partner for Augustana, and USF is now on board as well. The Cougars contract with Avera-McKennan will expire on August 1 of next year.

"Sioux Valley is a great community partner that's interested in athletics in Sioux Falls," Gross said. "I just think they value partnerships like the ones they have with USF and Augie."

And while Augustana continues to work on their own partnerships, USF also looks for more.

"I know other corporations are going to see the value as well," he said. "We'll sell naming rights to the track, the soccer field, the fieldhouse - all under the Sioux Valley Clinic community complex."

While playing some of his bigger ideas close to the vest, Sanchez freely entertains ideas of hosting Major League Soccer exhibitions, NFL exhibitions, and of televising USF games.

"It's by God's grace we got this far," Sanchez said. "And we're not done."

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If plans are followed, the facility on the corner of 69th St. and Cliff Ave. could be the most appealing stadium in Sioux Falls with high-tech scoreboards, elevators, and seatbacks for the bleachers.

"We'll have skyboxes, video rooms and working press rooms," Sanchez says. "The concession stands will be big enough to accommodate NFL exhibition games. The bleachers will have seat-backs. It'll have an elevator, a bathroom in the press box, hopefully two scoreboards - one with video. The women's bathroom will be bigger than the men's so they don't have to stand in line."

well well well, for all those who said it cant be done.. THE UNIVERSITY OF FREAKIN' SIOUX FALLS gets it done.. with seatbacks and all, for those geriatric asses of yours.

impossible is nothing

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well well well, for all those who said it cant be done.. THE UNIVERSITY OF FREAKIN' SIOUX FALLS gets it done.. with seatbacks and all, for those geriatric asses of yours.

impossible is nothing

Cee, if you want an on campus stadium then fine.

PResto! You now have an on campus stadium. The WVU game will be moved to the Soccer Field this week.

Congrats

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