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Construction projects on campuses advance

PIERRE (AP) — The growth and construction at South Dakota universities reflects two of the schools’ recent ascent to NCAA Division I athletics status and the Board of Regents’ 10-year plan, said Board of Regents Executive Director Jack Warner.

Officials will break ground Tuesday on a $66 million arena at the University of South Dakota. South Dakota State University will open a new practice facility next fall and may start construction on a $65 million stadium by August. The two universities joined Division I, which is the top level of major colleges in athletics, within the last decade.

Warner said all of the state’s universities are growing modestly. He said SDSU had a growth spurt in 2010-11.

The new athletic venues will attract athletes and fans, and it might even make state universities more attractive to the NCAA for hosting post-season events.

“We’re always hopeful that we can host tournaments,” Warner said in an interview after the Board of Regents met earlier in the week.

He pointed out another big reason for the upgrade: “There’s more demand for seats than we have seats available.”

The Board of Regents approved design plans in May for the 19,359-seat football stadium at SDSU in Brookings. It was funded by donors and with bonds intended to be repaid with revenue from the stadium once it’s open.

Warner said the existing stadium, which is over 50 years old, has “outlived its useful life.”

The school is also nearing completion of its Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex, a training space for student athletes.