Pretty big news Tuesday morning as the Board of Regents approved of sending South Dakota State’s proposed $32 million indoor practice facility and human performance center on to the State Legislature for final approval.
Except it didn’t feel like big news because it went down on a conference call rather than in a public forum. And was this final, final, approval? There are so many layers of approval that it’s hard to tell. Pretty sure this was the third checkpoint since October.
This isn’t a criticism so much as an observation.
In fact, part of what stood out most to this point is the relative flexibility shown by SDSU and the Regents.
In started in 2010 when president David Chicoine took a flyer and decided to introduce several possible future projects to the Regents, making the group aware of some facility goals well in advance of bringing them to fruition. Prior to that, the Regents had hinted at being, well, sort of annoyed with SDSU talking about publicly about plans before getting the official go-ahead to start anything. And, yes, this process is such that schools are well advised to ask for permission to start fundraising for privately funded facilities.
But the Regents, by virtue of their actions, seemed largely OK with this new approach, the only hiccup being an early delay. And that was largely based on timing (budget cuts). Since then, the group has allowed things to move on relatively smoothly and given SDSU - and USD for a parallel project - some financial leeway, allowing its foundation to front roughly $6 million in light of ongoing fundraising efforts.
This could have gone down differently. SDSU could have railed against the system. Instead, it asked to start the process earlier and offer advance information. The Regents could have denied that request and/or required that every last penny be in hand prior to allowing the project to move on to the South Dakota Legislature. Instead, it extended the benefit of the doubt, while being plenty thorough in setting up checkpoints.
“I don’t feel like anything was ever unreasonable,” SDSU athletic director Justin Sell said. “In fact, I get the sense that people are open and willing to look at how we put our projections together and if there are new ways to do business that make more sense. When you’re dealing with public entities there has to be a trust and a confident and there has to be accountability, too.”
All things considered, the process went about as it should, both parties offering reasonable compromises in order to bring to fruition a department-changing project. This bodes well for the future - both for SDSU as it looks ahead toward a new football stadium, changes to Frost Arena, etc., and for the Regents as they become more reliant on private sources to fund building projects at the state’s public schools.
As for the future of the indoor practice facility project, Sell hopes the Legislature would make a decision by the end of March, there would then be a 60-day window for contractors to bid and shovels could be in the ground by May or June with an opening in Fall 2014.
SDSU has raised more than $26M of the $32M with several big asks still on the table. Sell said taht the number of donors has jumped from 35 to 307 since an anonymous contributor pitched in a $5 million match.
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.