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$60 million SDSU football stadium proposed

PIERRE -- The new football stadium proposed for South Dakota State University would switch from grass to artificial turf, could cost at least $60 million and would be the most expensive project undertaken at a state campus, members of the building committee said Wednesday.

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The construction schedule calls for work to start in 2014 on the new stadium's east, south and part of the west sides, while Coughlin-Alumni Stadium would remains in place for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The west side of the new stadium would be finished in 2016 to be ready for football games that fall.

The financing plan for the project remains fluid. SDSU president David Chicoine said the bonding amount could be reduced by attracting donations. A $50 million bonding figure was mentioned during the discussion Wednesday.

The financial plan needs to be carefully vetted before approval is sought in December from the state Board of Regents, whose members oversee the state universities, said Jack Warner, the regents' executive director.

The regents will have the final word on whether the stadium proposal is submitted to the Legislature for consideration in the 2014 session. The project cannot proceed without legislative approval.

Part of the revenue generated from the 18,000-seat stadium would be used to repay bonds. Regents officials said they want assurance that SDSU's overall sports program continues to receive support from football sales. They also want to see projections on ticket sales over the potentially 25-to 30-year duration of the bonds.

"During that time, teams can through a lot of different cycles," Warner said.

Chicoine said student fees might be part of the answer to supporting the stadium's ongoing operation. "We've just begun having conversations with students about that possibility," he said.

Chicoine agreed that a student-fee increase wasn't part of the initial facility statement submitted to the regents.

Earlier this year, the regents decided they want a freeze on general tuition and fees for South Dakota residents at the state universities for fall 2014. The regents plan to ask the Legislature for more financial support instead.

The regents will need to discuss the possible increase of student fees at SDSU for the football stadium, said Monte Kramer, vice president of finance and administration for the university system.

"It may bump into some other priorities we have for the coming year," Warner told Chicoine.

The new stadium would have seating on three sides of its bowl and would offer concessions and restrooms throughout. Coughlin-Alumni Stadium has concessions and restrooms on only its main west side.

The new stadium would have several upper tiers offering reserved suites with operable windows and reserved loge boxes outdoors, along with a club area for people with reserved tickets.

The 2005-era scoreboard would be retained and relocated, while new lights would be installed throughout the stadium complex. The campus police station also would be moved into the complex.

Coughlin-Alumni Stadium hosted its first game Sept. 22, 1962. The first night game was played in 2001. The unofficial capacity is 16,000 fans. The record attendance was 16,345 in 2007 when SDSU hosted North Dakota State. The season record is an average of 13,265 set in 2009.