The Augustana basketball programs are traveling back to the future. From 1961 to 1989, the Vikings played their home games at Sioux Falls Arena, before making the move to the Elmen Center. Monday, the Augustana staff announced that beginning this fall, the men's and women's basketball teams will move out of the Elmen Center and into the Sioux Falls Arena. The plan has been in the works for some time now and they are excited about the move.
"This is something that we have been studying for quite some time. We have worked with SMG and the city to form a very good partnership, so we are excited about it," Augustana AD Bill Gross said.
The coaches and players are the most excited. No longer will they have to run through the halls to get onto the court. As Tom Billeter explains, the bigger venue will accommodate everyone from the players to the fans in the concession lines.
"Our team has to run through hundreds of people to get to the court. The kids in the snow cone line have to part like the Red Sea, it's a tough experience. When we get in here, the fans, the community, the student athletes, and our students are all going to get, in my opinion, a true collegiate experience," Vikings Men's Basketball Coach Tom Billeter said.
Some of the key positives will be two video-replay boards, much better parking, and 3,500 seatback chairs. Although the Elmen Center is a more intimate setting, playing in the Arena may help attract recruits as well.
"Our competition is not only in division two, it's division one schools in the region because we recruit against many of them. It's important for us to have facilities that are attractive and places that young basketball players want to compete," Gross said.
The Vikings will call the Arena home for the next five years and have an option to renew that deal for another five in 2020. There are no plans for a new building on campus in the near future.
"We're going to take it as we go and right now this looks like this is where we will be. Down the road, who knows? Five years ago we probably didn't think we would be coming to the Sioux Falls Arena, but here we are," Gross said.
The Augustana women will play their final game at the Elmen Center Wednesday night, as they host MSU-Moorhead in the opening round of the NSIC Tournament.