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VERMILLION, S.D. (AP) — The nearly 40-year-old DakotaDome needs a facelift, according to University of South Dakota officials.

And in early December, their desire to update and modernize the facility took a step — one of many along the way — forward when the South Dakota Board of Regents approved USD’s Facility Program Plan for an estimated $26.3 million renovation project to the DakotaDome.

The plans call for updates to the lighting, electrical, plumbing, fire and sound systems, as well as “significant” ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) improvements to restrooms, locker rooms, meeting rooms and coaching offices.

It’s time to modernize the DakotaDome, according to USD athletic director David Herbster.

“l look at it from the perspective that it’s time to finish the dome,” he said.

Opened in 1979, the DakotaDome — which houses most of USD’s athletic programs, as well as the host site for a number of other events — has not undergone any major renovations. The most recent structural work was connecting the south wall to the year-old Sanford Coyote Sports Center (SCSC).

In addition to the other updates, the dome renovations will radically modernize USD’s football facilities.

Head coach Bob Nielson said the topic of the dome project was discussed early during his conversations with USD officials prior to his hiring in December 2015.

“That was one of the things they indicated was part of the facility plan,” Nielson said.

When the SCSC came online a year ago, there was space freed up on the west and east ends of the DakotaDome, and the first phase of the renovation plan calls for the following on the first floor of the west end: new football locker room, support spaces, meeting room, offices and a renovation to the restrooms.

The new weight room in the SCSC was a major step for his program, Nielson said, but a new locker room is also a needed step.

“Those are two places where the guys spend the majority of their time,” he said. “That aspect of the improvement will be big for us and our recruiting and our student-athletes.”

Those are things USD needs to have to keep pace with schools like South Dakota State and North Dakota State, according to Nielson.

“Facilities have become a little bit of an arms race,” he said. “You look all over Division I football — and even within our league — and that’s what schools have done.”

The second phase of the DakotaDome renovation would include permanent seating on the west end, with suites on the upper level, the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan reported . The goal, Herbster said, is to expand seating capacity for football games to the 12,000 to 13,000 range, an increase from the current 10,000-seat capacity. USD averaged 9,347 this past season.

“But I also know all these things can take unique twists and turns,” Herbster said.

The projected renovation cost of $26.3 million will be funded through bonds, USD funds and Higher Education Finance Funds (HEFF).

Following the approval of the Regents, USD will work to form a building committee and then hire an architect firm, Herbster said. The final steps must be approval by the South Dakota Legislature during their upcoming session and then the last go-ahead from the regents.

It’s much the same process USD underwent during its $66 million facilities project two years ago that included the new arena, as well as a new soccer field and outdoor track complex.

“We’ll need to have some patience,” Herbster said.

That was the same thing USD officials said during the fundraising efforts for its last facility project, and the result has been rave reviews of the SCSC.

“This building (SCSC) has given us some things that are state of the art,” said Nielson, who referenced the weight room and sports medicine areas.

“Now we just need to update those things that are a little more specific to football,” he added.

“That’s what this Dome project will allow us to do.”

More than just football will be affected by the renovations to the DakotaDome, as well, according to Herbster. USD will host the annual Dakota Farm Show this week, and the facility also hosts graduation ceremonies, track meets, youth football games and the South Dakota state high school championships.

“If this building is going to remain as an iconic structure as it’s been since it opened, we need to do some things to make sure it’s a functioning and vital structure,” Herbster said.


Information from: Yankton Press and Dakotan,