On-campus NSU stadium worth considering

Farm Forum

Northern State University President James Smith surprised many when he said in an American News story that an on-campus football stadium would be on the wish list for NSU.

Smith cited Augustana’s Kirkeby-Over Stadium in Sioux Falls as an inspiration. That stadium, built in 2009, seats 6,500.

The idea is just that, an idea, like when many of us think, “We need a bigger kitchen!” Great idea, but few of us do it.

But let’s go down this road for a minute and show some early support in case Northern does decide to explore the feasibility of an on-campus football stadium.

It’s hard to look at any major athletics facility without talking about recruitment, retention and fundraising.

With a “build-it-and-they-will-come” mentality, universities do see upgrades in athletic facilities helping to attract not only athletes, but other students who feel more connected when there is a strong athletic program.

And an impressive game-day experience (and winning teams) does tend to bring in more donor dollars. Alumni such as Millicent Atkins, who left $15 million to Northern’s education department, are few and far between. Athletics really does tickle the wider range of donors over a longer period of time.

There are several hurdles to making this idea a reality. Off the top of our heads:

Where would Northern get the space? The campus area is tight already. A consolidation of buildings, departments and services would need to happen before the right amount of land was found.

The South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired would need to be taken good care of. Smith was careful to tell us that the school — like NSU, part of the South Dakota Board of Regents system — would be there for the long haul. But Northern would be interested in that land if it ever came available.

What would the neighbors think? Residents worry about relatively small apartment units now. A stadium would be a massive change to the park, and to parking and traffic. It would be a new experience.

There is the matter of funding. Northern is continuing work on a renovation of the Johnson Fine Arts Center, a $12 million project.

What happens to Swisher Field, Northern football’s current home, adjacent to Central High School? Too small for Division II, but too large for high school pigskin? Aberdeen counts on that stadium to maintain viability, too.

There is nothing like a beautiful college campus on a fall football Saturday. There would be transformative changes for both Northern and Aberdeen with the addition of an on-campus stadium. There would be more opportunities for other events throughout the year, too. Upgraded seating, amenities, box seats and press accommodations would be attractive to those coming to town.

OK, now we are dreaming. But count this as our heads nod in agreement that it’s a topic worthy of discussion.

— American News editorial board