ARTIFICIAL TURF: ever since 1979
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: Oct. 11, 2008 (USD football ), Jan. 2, 2014 (USD basketball 76 vs. Cal. State Northridge 75)
Collegiate football in the northern states is often hindered by early winter blizzards, and the advent of the Astrodome in 1965 sparked the imagination of many a college sports administrator. In 1970, Idaho State University became the first institution of higher learning to build an indoor football stadium, Holt Arena. The University of Northern Iowa followed suit with the UNI-Dome in 1976, and three years later the DakotaDome opened at the University of South Dakota. It all got started in 1972, when Carl Miller became Director of Athletics. He relentlessly promoted the idea of an indoor multi-use sporting arena, and after sharp arguments over the cost and uses, groundbreaking finally took place in 1976. The total project cost was a (relatively) modest $8 million.
Most of these college football domes featured an air-supported teflton-coated fabric roof, which was copied by the Metrodome, which opened in 1982. In the short run, it saved a lot of money, but in the long run it gave rise to never-ending headaches. The main problem was that heavy snow caused the roofs to collapse, which happened twice at the DakotaDome (1979 and 1982), and once again at the Metrodome on December 12, 2010. Besides, the fabric roofs just looked tacky. For these reasons, a new $13 million steel-supported roof was built at the DakotaDome in 2001.
The DakotaDome replaced Inman Field, where football used to be played, and The Armory, where the Coyotes basketball team played. The DakotaDome is much less satisfactory for the latter sport, since there is a huge void beyond the movable bleacher sections. The overall shape is an "octorad," like in Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego or Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, except that the four sides are straight, not curved.
Recent improvements to the DakotaDome include a new video board built by Daktronics (headquartered in Brookings, South Dakota), as well as enhancements to the concourse area, the women's locker room, and the press box.
Hailed when it opened as technological marvel, the DakotaDome fell short of hopes that it would become a magnet for major events across the Midwest. Besides football and basketball, the DakotaDome also hosts swimming competitions, track meets, volleyball tournaments, and various trade shows. Each November it hosts the South Dakota high school football championships, and in May 2010 the first DakotaDome Youth Baseball Classic was held there. It is obviously far too small for adult baseball games, the DakotaDome was once useful as a place for the USD baseball team to practice during the late winter months. For budgetary reasons, however, the USD baseball program was discontinued after the 2004 season.
In March 2016, the championship game of the Women's National Invitational Tournament was played in the DakotaDome, and the home team University of South Dakota Lady Coyotes defeated the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles by a score of 71-65. It was probably the last basketball game ever to be played in the DakotaDome. A new arena is being built on the south side of the DakotaDome, and USD basketball games will be played there starting next winter.