SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Adam Gorra felt like Sioux Falls was heading in the direction of becoming a hockey town.
This week’s announcement from Augustana University about starting a Division I men’s hockey program in 2023 along with a future ice rink on the university campus sealed the deal for Gorra — the current president of the Sioux Falls Youth Hockey Association.
“It really defines us as a hockey town,” Gorra told KELOLAND News. “Once you have a Division I team in a town like this, you become a hockey town. It’s going to be a epicenter for hockey in the region.”
Gorra said a Division I hockey team was the next step for the Sioux Falls hockey community, which he said dates back more than 50 years.
He pointed to the opening of the Scheels IcePlex in 2014 as a turning point for the sport to grow even more in Sioux Falls. The building brought three year-round sheets of ice all located in an indoor facility.
“Over the past seven years, we’ve seen a doubling of kids playing hockey in this community,” Gorra said.
This past year, the Sioux Falls Flyers had more than 40 boys and girls youth hockey teams. Along with bringing in a higher level of hockey, Gorra said having an ice facility on the campus of Augustana will be a big benefit.
“It’s right in the core of the city and a different location than the IcePlex,” Gorra said. “It really broadens the exposure for the sport within the city.”
Gorra said Division I hockey is one step above the United States Hockey League, which the Sioux Falls Stampede compete in. He doesn’t see the Stampede and Augustana’s future team competing against each other for fans or resources.
Augustana University said details of the new program were still being finalized, but they noted a gift from T. Denny Sanford got the program started.
Gorra said he was “thrilled” when he heard the news. He noted Sioux Falls’ location fits in well with the Division I hockey scene.
“It’s absolutely a perfect location,” Gorra said. “In terms of geography, I can’t think of a more ideal place. I think it’s going to be a blockbuster.”