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September 01, 2014 10:15 PM

Jackrabbits Head Indoors

Brookings, SD

Towering over the Dykhouse Center and Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, the new Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex is hard to miss. The $32-million facility's grand opening is set for Saturday, Oct. 11 barring any setbacks.

Sitting next to the more than 50-year-old Coughlin-Alumni Stadium on the campus of South Dakota State University, the massive new athletic complex looks almost out of place. But with record enrollment at SDSU, a growing city in Brookings and a new stadium in the works, it's a view of the future.

"This is really kind of symbolic, if you will, of all that growth. Just based on the sheer size, you can't miss it from Interstate 29 or Highway 14, that's for sure," SDSU Athletic Director Justin Sell said.

The indoor facility is a premier track playground with an 8-lane, 300-meter track. It will also boast 100 yards of synthetic turf, something that brings a smile to head football coach John Stiegelmeier's face.

"Our last two spring balls have been a circus. We spend more time trying to find out if we're going to practice and where we can practice and then our schedule's all messed up. Now we're going to be able to say these are the days we're practicing and we'll be able to practice," Stiegelmeier said.

The complex speaks for itself in the eyes of recruits. On top of an academic center, there's space for sports medicine, athletic training, strength and conditioning, physical therapy, and hydrotherapy.

Matt Holsen: Did this kind of bring you here?

Adam Belhaj: This absolutely brought me here. To work in a premier, an elite facility, definitely excites me in my quest to get better as an athlete.

Freshman track athlete and Lincoln grad Adam Belhaj won't know anything other than this complex during his years on campus. He believes it levels the playing field for the Jackrabbits track program.

"I definitely think so and that's one thing that kind of pushed me to come here is to prove that SDSU, we can be good at track too," Belhaj said.   

While the original finish date was around Nov. 1, crews have been working quickly and a grand opening should take place mid-October.

Track and football will benefit from the space but every athlete will be able to use it including those participating in soccer, baseball and softball.

"There's almost a sense of 'too good to be true,'" Sell said. "To see a facility of this size, and one of the biggest in the country, if not the biggest, is right here in Brookings, SD and the state of SD. As the finishing touches have come in and some of the colors are in there, now it's not only big, but it's really nice. It really helps us see a huge future ahead for the Jackrabbits.

While the complex is a one-stop shop for a wide-variety of student athletes needs, just being able to get out of the cold South Dakota winter is good enough for some.

"I hope we get to use it in December when the playoffs start. That's when it would really come online for us and really help us improve because the last two years in the playoffs, it's been tough," Stiegelmeier said.

The complex coming together is the beginning of a new era for the Jacks. A $65 million, 19,000-plus seat football stadium is next.

"We will do some great things today, but it's about what can we do for the next 40-50 years and how can we build an athletic program that can be great for that long. And then how we enhance our university and hopefully people see how we enhance the state of South Dakota," Sell said.

The football stadium is scheduled to be completed by 2016.

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