Scheduling conflict moves DWU basketball GPAC opener to Pentagon
Saturday, the Dakota Wesleyan University basketball programs host their opening conference games, but not on their home turf
The Tiger men and women kick off Great Plains Athletic Conference play against Nebraska Wesleyan University beginning at noon at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
DWU normally plays its home games at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, but a change of venue was needed because the Corn Palace is hosting the Class AA high school volleyball state tournament through Saturday evening.
“I think this is really big for our basketball teams,” DWU athletic director Curt Hart said. “I think it will be a great chance for our kids to play in a new place. … When we found out the Corn Palace was going to be used for the state volleyball tournament, the first thing we thought about was getting to play in the Sanford Pentagon.”
After discovering the conflict of schedules at the Corn Palace, Hart reached out to Nebraska Wesleyan to see if they would be open to playing on the Sunday after the state tournament. Yet, NWU declined and Hart decided to look elsewhere.
Hart said he contacted the Pentagon a few months ago in hopes of acquiring an open slot. The games were originally scheduled to be played later in the day but due to the Sioux Falls Sky Force game, which starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, the doubleheader was moved up.
“I think this game gives a lot of our Sioux Falls alumni the chance to come to one of our games,” Hart said. “I think the fans in Mitchell would rather go to the game in Mitchell, but they understand the situation with the Corn Palace and a lot of them also want to see a game in the Pentagon.”
The DWU men have some experience playing in the Pentagon as they hosted their intrasquad game at the new facility on Oct. 3. The Tiger men were selected to finish ninth in the GPAC preseason polls and Midland was picked to finish first.
As for the DWU women, this will be the first time facing an opponent in the Pentagon. The Tigers have been practicing at the facility this week to prepare for the GPAC opener. The DWU women were picked to finish fifth in the GPAC preseason poll. Concordia and Morningside were tied for votes to win the conference on the women’s side.
The Pentagon opened in September and has nine high school and college length courts. Heritage Court, which is the facility’s main basketball court, seats 3,100 people. The complex also hosts volleyball tournaments throughout the year.
Corn Palace perspective
Corn Palace Director Mark Shilling said he wasn’t too concerned about the Pentagon having an effect on the Corn Palace’s business.
“I don’t see that there are necessarily sporting events that will be taken away from the Corn Palace,” Schilling said. “Wesleyan might play one game there, but it is not like they are going to drive to the Pentagon for every game.”
Schilling added he wasn’t too worried about losing any of the high school basketball tournaments or classics. Over the next three months, the Corn Palace is slated to host the Mike Miller Classic and the boys’ and girls’ Hanson Classics. The Corn Palace is also home to both the Mitchell Kernel basketball programs.
One classic that some speculate could end up at the Pentagon in the future is the Mike Miller Classic because of Miller’s alliances with Sanford.
The classic, which is a two-day event that brings high school basketball teams from across the nation to Mitchell, is partly sponsored by Sanford Health. The classic is Dec. 27-28 and Schilling said the classic has a year-to-year contract with the Corn Palace.
“To say that there is not a chance or that the Mike Miller Classic has never looked at playing at the Pentagon would be wrong,” Schilling said. “But everyone knows that Mike Miller is from Mitchell and the Corn Palace is a unique place to play. There is a reason that the Corn Palace was ranked in the top 10 places for high school basketball by USA Today.”
Pentagon becoming more like the Palace
This year, Pentagon has already hosted an NBA game and will host a variety of events.
One addition to its schedule is the Sanford Schoolers Classic, which the Canistota boys’ basketball team is playing in. The Hawks are set to play at the Pentagon on Feb. 1.
Canistota played in the Hanson Classic last season, but will not return to the tournament this season.
“We got invited to the Schoolers Classic and we think it is going be really exciting to play there,” Canistota coach Pat Jolley said. “I think this it will be a great experience for the kids to play in a place like the Pentagon.”
Jolley said he doesn’t think the Corn Palace will be affected by the Pentagon’s arrival.
“I don’t really see it affecting the Hanson Classic or the Corn Palace,” Jolley said. “So many people in the area love basketball, but I think the Pentagon will help the Sioux Falls area become more like Mitchell with big turnouts at basketball games.”