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Augustana Announces Move to Sioux Falls Arena

In likely his last press conference, Augustana athletic director Bill Gross made an emotional, and big announcement at the Sioux Falls Arena on Monday morning. 

Gross, who is retiring as Augustana’s athletic director, revealed that the Vikings will be entering into a five-year agreement to play all men and women’s basketball games at the Sioux Falls Arena beginning with the 2014-2015 season.

Photo via Sam Tastad/ESPN 99.1
Photo via Sam Tastad/ESPN 99.1

There are five reasons for their move up North to the Sioux Falls Arena.

First, the Arena adds an enhanced fan experience with 3,500 chairback seats, two three-year old video scoreboards, a brand-new state-of-the-art scorers table, over 4,400 parking spaces and over 100 club/suites area seating. Second, the move allows the Vikings to grow their fan base, and increase their season ticket total from 1,750 to over 2,000 or more. Third, the Arena creates another amenity for its student-athletes and prospective students. Fourth, the universities revenue will be increased and invested into their athletic program as a whole with 18 sports programs and about 400 student-athletes. Lastly, Augustana is partnering with the Sioux Falls community. Over 5,000 Augustana alumni live in Sioux Falls and the region.

Augustana will be giving the Arena a makeover by adding its colors and insignias in the lobby, and on the court. Their move to the venue is fully supported by Sioux Falls, and mayor Mike Huether shares why the move will benefit the whole community.

Photo via Sam Tastad/ESPN 99.1
Photo via Sam Tastad/ESPN 99.1

“It’s another quality of life investment for our town. I know that it is kind of Augie-specific, but there are folks all over town that are thrilled by basketball. This gives them another great opportunity to enjoy it.”

The Sanford Premier Center gave the Vikings an opportunity to move to the Arena, and  Heuther goes on to say it will be of great value for the city.

“With the Arena, the events center, and the convention center, we want to maximize its value as best we can. Augustana gives us a really strong tenant for the Arena, and helps us maximize this 51-year old building to its fullest.”

For the Vikings are excited and Gross is really looking forward for the chance to establish themselves in the Sioux Falls community.

“The Arena is a valuable resource that is now available and the city has plans to continue to improve and fix it up. SMG is really interested in getting tenants in there. So, it’s really a win for everybody.”

Head men’s basketball coach Tom Billeter loves the idea of partnering with Sioux Falls as well.

“I’ve always have wanted to do that. I’ve always wished we could be the Creighton of the NSIC, that private school in a fantastic community in a great town. Those people that have never been to game, that aren’t graduates from Augie that want to see good college basketball, and ‘hey, let’s take the family and go try this out,’ that’s the kind of person or family I would love to see coming out here than it was on campus.”

This isn’t the first time Augustana will be playing at the Arena, either. The Vikings played at the facility from 1961 to 1989, and in 2006 and 2007. Head women’s basketball coach Dave Krauth supports the university’s decision and thinks it’s at the right time.

“We’ve done this before, and I’ve done this before. The Elmen has been near and dear to my heart, and is a great home-court for us. This time, when I weighed all the advantages and disadvantages, I think on the side of advantages of the Arena, that side really grew. So, I think it will have a much better opportunity to have a home-court for us, and other opportunities like fundraising or for our fan-base moving forward.”

For Billeter, he loved the Elmen Center, but he thinks the Arena will be easier for their teams, fans, and the community of Sioux Falls to access.

“I love it. I think it’s a great decision had they decided not to do it, I’d be 100% behind that. Whatever our administration wants to do, I’m all for it. I love the Elmen Center, too. The thing I like about the Arena is it is a more true college experience. It’s easier to park, it’s easier with the chairbacks, it’s easier to get to concessions or bathrooms, it’s easier for us to get to the locker room and court. When you walk in here, it’s got the old patina, the magic of the palestra. It’s got the feel of playing a college basketball game and when they get it all done with all our Augie colors and insignias, it’s going to be a pretty homey feeling and a place for the size of the Arena, the building is still an intimate venue for the size of us and will play well for our fan base.

Photo via Sam Tastad/ESPN 99.1
Photo via Sam Tastad/ESPN 99.1

Among the positives the move will bring, people will still have questions. Gross starts by answering what Augustana will do with the Elmen Center.

“The Elmen Center will continue to be home for volleyball and wrestling. It will also be a practice space and in addition to that, it will be a recreation and intramural’s space. It will now be a space freed up to be rented for some community events, which there is always a demand for.”

Or how will the Vikings student body respond to the decision?

“Well, we played here in 2006 and 2007. Actually, compared to the games we played at the Elmen Center that year, we drew more out here than we did at the Elmen Center. We ran shuttles, we bussed our pep bands. we found ways to entice our students for the fan experience. We will do that again because we want our students involved.”

In the end, the move gives the community of Sioux Falls another great opportunity. The Arena has proven to be a great place to watch sports, and will continue to give sports fans the chance to watch local teams in the area.

“For people that love sports, for people that love basketball, they have another great place to enjoy it at an all-new level called the Sioux Falls Arena,” adds Huether.

Photo via Sam Tastad/ESPN 99.1
Photo via Sam Tastad/ESPN 99.1

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