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NSU President Wants to Rent Campus for More Meetings

A couple months ago, in response to a report showing that Northern State University has a lot of underused classrooms and dorms, I suggested that campus leaders should look at renting out some spaces to boost the budget.

NSU President Timothy Downs appears to be reading Dakota Free Press:

They’re also marketing campus as a place for conventions and other gatherings, he said.

“We have a hall called Steele Hall and right now we’re not using it for students living in it weekly and by semester, we’re using it as a flex point, a place where we can have conferences,” Downs said. “We can host them with facilities, food, so it’s more of a conferencing model, so we’re going to try and build that up” [Katherine Grandstrand, “Northern to Make Changes as Budget Tightens {paywall},” Aberdeen American News, 2019.12.02].

I would much rather attend a conference on Northern’s sylvan, centrally located campus than at either of the pavement deserts at the opposite edges of town. Aberdeen gets to show off more to visitors when we bring them to the heart of our actual city than when we keep them isolated out on the boxy, boring fringes. Besides, when the conference has down time or a boring session, meeting at Northern allows attendees to stroll through the student union, peruse the books at the library, or go for a stroll through the cozy adjoining neighborhoods or, for the longer-legged, down to Melgaard Park or up to Main Street. None of our commercial convention places offer that sort of ambulatory amenity.

Conferences on campus? Heck of an idea. Bring those visitors and their money to Northern!


  1. Porter Lansing 2019-12-02

    As a teen, the Watertown Swim Team went to a swim meet at Ellsworth, every summer. Instead of the motel rooms we rented while at meets in Aberdeen, Sioux Falls, Yankton etc. we always stayed in dorm rooms at School of Mines. Sporting teams are a potential source of rentals, I’d say.
    *We did get extra stern lectures about not wrecking the rooms.

  2. bearcreekbat 2019-12-02

    I recall a college in Aberdeen that rented dorm rooms to a group of chess players from SD and out of state that competed in Aberdeen’s former “Michelob Open” chess and speed chess tournaments many years ago. Accoutrements in the dorm rooms were sparce but all the players really needed was an inexpensive place to crash along with baños. I doubt the school made much money but they did perform a positive service to the community and helped the tournaments succeed by making the rooms available and affordable to relatively impoverished chess competitors that enjoyed beer.

  3. Porter Lansing 2019-12-02

    For BCB … And now for the Back Story on …
    The chess queen
    File this under the category “Who Knew?” The queen in chess was not always as powerful as she is today.
    I’m Katharine Seelye, a longtime reporter for The NYTimes and a chess player. I learned about the change in the queen’s power last week, while writing an obituary of Marilyn Yalom, a feminist author. Her 2004 book, “Birth of the Chess Queen: A History,” describes the queen’s evolution from weakest piece on the board to mistress of the universe.
    When the game was first played in the sixth century in India and the Arab world, the chess queen did not exist.
    But in real life, powerful queens — see Eleanor of Aquitaine in the 12th century and Isabella I of Castile in the 15th — would come to make their mark.
    Ms. Yalom posits that those examples inspired game makers to reflect such power on the board. Initially, the queen could move only one square, on the diagonal.
    In time, the queen was granted superpowers and became the mightiest of all — at least in chess.

  4. bearcreekbat 2019-12-02

    Porter, thanks. That is a really interesting bit of history.

  5. Debbo 2019-12-02

    I lived in Steele Hall in 1973. That’s where I met neighbor Cheryl, set her up with my big bro and now she’s my SIL.

    Steele must have been remodeled because it didn’t have meeting space back in the day.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-12-03

    I hate to admit it, Debbo, but without looking at signs, I don’t know which building Steele is. If NSU follows Downs’s recommendation and rents out more of its facilities, more members of the public will be on a first-name basis with NSU’s buildings, feel more invested in the campus, and be more inclined to support public investment in the institution.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-12-03

    Chess tournaments! That kind of small event sounds a lot like the regional speech contests I’ve judged on campus. Those October/December contests require just four spaces: two classrooms for competition, one classroom for the folks running the contest and for judges to chill and have a donut, and one large space where the kids can hang out while waiting to compete and then waiting for results.

    Done right, NSU’s rental program could offer a lower-cost alternative to small groups and non-profits who can’t afford glitzy places like the DEC and the Ramkota while generating additional revenue and public brand awareness. Focus on events for young people (like Boys State, hosted here since its founding in 1940), and you get easy outreach to more prospective students.

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