SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference closed its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments Tuesday night at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
For the past decade, the NSIC has determined its champions on Heritage Court, which is marking a milestone in 2023.
The Sanford Pentagon is the cornerstone of the Sanford Sports Complex, and it’s celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2023. At the center of the Pentagon is Heritage Court and its 1950’s-style setting.
“It was a bold vision and it was a bold vision by our leadership at the time to build it in that style, that manner, and it was very purposeful,” Sanford Sports Vice President Jesse Smith said.
“It’s nice to see on camera, it’s nice to see online, but when people walk through they’re really blown away of the little details of what this place really is,” Sanford Sports President Steve Young said.
Steve Young is the president of Sanford Sports, a position he’s held since 2020.
“It can host a youth event, it can host a major college event, it can host a G League game with NBA standards, it can host a concert, an MMA event, all really within a week,” Young said.
“It’s a very versatile facility and being able to have volleyball on the outer courts while you have basketball in the main arena, it’s just a testament to the flexibility and the planning that went into developing this building,” Smith said.
Jesse Smith joined the Sanford Pentagon in 2014, and says the venue has hosted nearly 100 division one athletic events since opening its doors.
“We’ve been able to build a reputation with the teams, with the coaches, and it just takes time and it just takes effort and we’ve been rewarded with those efforts so far,” Smith said.
“We send a team to the Final Four for example, and now they’re recognized by college coaches and all the people there. They know these people by name and ‘hey, when are we going to get you to the Pentagon’ or more importantly now they’re asking ‘when can we get to the Pentagon’,” Young said.
The number of star players to step onto this floor is staggering. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jalen Suggs, Luka Garza. In fact, Suggs and Garza crossed paths in the biggest game ever played on this floor in 2020, number one Gonzaga versus third-ranked Iowa.
“It was pretty incredible to get that, it was unbelievable for us to be able to do that on CBS, and then to have the dividend of people wanting to come back more and more,” Young said.
“That one was really what pushed us over the top,” Smith said.
The first D1 game played on Heritage Court featured Wisconsin and St. John’s in November, 2013. Former Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin had this to say about the team’s visit.
“It’s as good of a venue as I’ve been to. From the locker rooms, to all the state of the art bells and whistles, and from a design stand point its first rate,” former St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin said in 2013.
A year later, Wichita State was the first nationally-ranked team to take the floor in a win over Memphis.
“Everyone here is first class. We’re very grateful and thankful that we had the opportunity to play in this game in this great arena on ESPN,” former Memphis head coach Josh Pastner said in 2014.
“Obviously, it’s very nice, renovated, but it kind of had that Hoosiers feel to it, as far as old time, being back in the sixties kind of feeling,” former Wichita State guard Ron Baker said in 2014.
The Pentagon is more than just a place for big time college basketball.
“It’s the grind every day of the academy kids, our coaches, and the ability for us to help those kids have a transformation in their sport of choice,” Young said.
And the action extends beyond Heritage Court.
“You know, we’ve got nine courts here for basketball, we’ve got several more for volleyball that we can turn into a major tournament where you as a parent, if you’re from another area, you can park once. You have a place to stay, you have a place to eat, you have a place to watch your kid,” Young said.
The success of the Pentagon has spurred growth throughout the campus.
“You’ve got IcePlex, you’ve got Match Pointe, you’ve got Power & Grace Gymnastics, we’ve got a Blue Rock and a Great Shots now and a clinic, a couple hotels,” Young said.
And it’s still growing…
“We’ve got the Sanford Diamonds, Sanford Crossing, and the virtual care clinic all opening and being built right now as we speak,” Young said.
“It really is the cornerstone and the powerhouse of the sports complex and the sheer number of people that have been able to come into this region and experience it really has helped drive the growth of the sports complex,” Smith said.
As for the future of the Sanford Pentagon…
“I want to see the NBA come back here, I think that would be really fun. I’d like to see the WNBA get here, I think that would be incredible as well,” Young said. “It’s hard to think about what else can we do, but I know our team’s going to come up with something great,” Young added.
Without naming names, Smith says a prominent team with a hall of fame coach will be making its first appearance at the Sanford Pentagon next season.