Northern Wants to Swap Land with School for Blind to Build Football Stadium

My morning paper tells me that Northern State University wants to build an 8,000-seat football stadium where the South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired currently sits.

From Google Maps: NSU, School for the Blind, and environs, Aberdeen, SD.
From Google Maps: NSU, School for the Blind, and environs, Aberdeen, SD.

Northern makes its case to the Regents thus:

This project would enable NSU to develop plans for an on-campus facility that will provide the ability for both football and softball to compete on campus. NSU football last competed on campus in the 1930’s and softball has never competed on campus. Since the 1970’s, NSU football games have been played at Swisher Field. In 2003, the field was moved from the northeast side of Aberdeen to its current location at Aberdeen Central High School which is approximately two miles from NSU’s campus. Swisher Field is utilized by Aberdeen Central High School, Roncalli High School, NSU and Presentation College. The NSU softball team practices and competes at the Moccasin Creek Softball Complex owned by the City of Aberdeen. Utilizing off campus facilities creates scheduling issues and makes it challenging for students to participate in and attend events.

The project would include a football stadium with capacity for 8,000 spectators, a turf field, premium seating space, fan amenities, scoreboard, lights, restrooms, maintenance equipment and facilities, and media and coaching space. The sports complex would also include a softball stadium with a turf field, dugouts, fan amenities, restrooms, media pavilion, fan seating for 300, a locker room, and storage for maintenance and support services. Parking would also be included and be available for use by individuals attending events at the sports complex, the Barnett Center and to the students living in the nearby residence halls [Agenda Item 7-S: “Preliminary Facility Statement,” South Dakota Board of Regents, posted September 2017].

Assuming you think 8,000 people need a place to watch NSU football (current game site Swisher Field holds 6,000), the School for the Blind’s block, immediately south of campus and between NSU and Melgaard Park, is an ideal location for another NSU facility. It’s the only open lot adjacent to campus big enough for a football field and parking. It’s right across the street from the Barnett Center, which houses the basketball court and other sports facilities. A stadium on this site allows the campus to use existing Barnett Center parking for some of the game-day need, thus minimizing the amount of pavement we’d have to lay at a separate site.

The School for the Blind doesn’t seem to mind the proposal. They’ve been working with Northern and would trade their current site for a new, somewhat smaller facility to replace their 1961 building. The new school would go where NSU’s dorm Jerde Hall sits. The current site seems a better location for a school, since it has much more grassy space, sits right across relatively quiet 17th Street from spacious Melgaard Park, and is a bit better removed from the busy traffic that comes down State Street to NSU and May Overby Elementary. But a new building with more than two outlets in each classroom (one deficiency of the current building cited by superintendent Marjorie Kaiser in the AAN article), among other improvements:

After 55 years, there are a number limitations and deficiencies that will require substantial investment. The school still runs on its original boilers, there is no central air system, there is no air circulations throughout the facility, and there are electrical challenges due to the age of the facility and the movement of technology [Agenda Item 7-U: “SDSBVI New School Construction Preliminary Facility Statement and Facility Program Plan,” SDBOR, posted September 2017].

The new School for the Blind would cost $13.6 million. Just developing the plan for the Northern stadium will cost $300,000 to $500,000; NSU hasn’t given a full cost for the new ballfield yet. NSU and the School for the Blind are telling the Regents they’ll fund both projects entirely with private dollars.

The Regents will consider this site swap and construction at their meeting next week in Madison on October 4.

4 Responses to Northern Wants to Swap Land with School for Blind to Build Football Stadium

  1. Mr. Lansing

    Colorado State University (the Republican college in CO) had the same idea four years ago. On campus stadiums are beneficial in many ways. Of course, the right wingers in Fort Collins went apoplectic about the cost and the “newness” of the idea. Criticism was waylaid when a wealthy alumnus pledged support, along with a change in state law that allowed the university to finance capital construction projects through the sale of revenue bonds.
    This being CO, where new things actually get done, the stadium is now open and is the latest jewel in the Northern part of the state.

  2. I am not sure what I think of this. I like the idea but I live two blocks from proposed stadium. Parking parking parking…

  3. Mr. Lansing

    Very astute, Dr. That same concern was prominent before the new CSU stadium opened. There’s now been four games and those living in the vicinity and alumni who faithfully attend have been interviewed. Those looking for parking say at first it was like an Easter egg hunt but now they’ve found their spot and are settling into a comfortable routine. Many of those living close purchased some orange traffic cones, hired a college kid to work a few hours before the game and rent the parking on and in front of their homes for $25 – $100 a spot and often rent the spots on a full season package. Being a college town folks are good at problem solving and don’t just get mad and complain. Most all are satisfied and proud of the new stadium.

  4. Parking, parking, parking—well, I guess we’ll see if fans have enough Wolf Pride to walk a few blocks. I do like Porter’s exhortation to problem-solving and profit-making. Where some see a lack of easy parking, others see an opportunity, to exercise their bodies or their entrepreneurship.

    I live on the other side of town, 2.4 miles from the proposed stadium site. I have yet to attend a football game here, but if I do come to see the new stadium, I’ll either walk to the stadium or ride my bike so I can park right at the entrance. Actually, I’ll probably run to campus on non-game-days so I can slip into the stadium and run stairs! Aberdeen needs a stadium so all of us runners can run stairs!