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Tigers raise commitment to Quintal Field's future

The crowd at Joe Quintal Field during a 2016 Dakota Wesleyan University football game against Morningside. (Republic file photo)

With the approval of a new lease with the Mitchell School District to use Joe Quintal Field, Dakota Wesleyan University has upped its commitment to the local facility.

About 10 times as much, to be more precise.

The lease between DWU and the school district to help pay for a new artificial turf surface is for at least 10 years, starting with DWU paying $30,000 a year to play its 2018 home football games at the facility.

Mitchell School District Business Manager Steve Culhane said Thursday that the DWU paid $2,784 to play its football games at the stadium in 2015, the most recent figures available. While the 2016 payment hasn't been finalized, Culhane said DWU's total cost to play at Quintal Field likely didn't exceed $3,000.

DWU Athletic Director Jon Hart acknowledged the significant increase in the lease, but said the school's leadership agreed that the partnership with the school district continues to make sense.

"I think when you're in a small community, it just makes sense to partner on projects like this," he said. "Not having our own field right now, the stadium fits our school and our team and it's a collaborative effort that will improve each of the programs that use it."

The price tag of the project is estimated at $1.2 million, with the Mitchell School District essentially raising two-thirds of the costs. Also included in the $1.2 million project is the replacement of the current all-weather track. The Mitchell Board of Education approved the new lease with DWU on Monday, while $400,000 is expected to come from the district's capital outlay funds and another $400,000 will be raised privately by the school district through donations.

At the start of the current lease, signed in 2009, the Tigers were paying $500 per game to use the facility for day games and $600 for night contests. Both the current lease and newly signed lease call for a 2.5 percent increase in the fee for each successive season, meaning in 2019, DWU will pay $30,750 and the price will increase each year.

With the new lease, DWU is expected to reach the $400,000 mark after 12 seasons, which is within the expected lifespan of the artificial surface general expected to last 12-15 years.

While Joe Quintal Field was the last of the Great Plains Athletic Conference football venues with a natural grass playing surface, sharing stadiums with another entity in the GPAC is commonplace. Of the eight GPAC football schools to play in their own city, each of them shares a stadium with a local high school like Mitchell does with DWU.

"There's some advantages on both sides (for turf)," Hart said. "I think it's a recruiting deal and it's good from a maintenance standpoint. There's a lot of games being played on that field and there's less to do when the field is taken care of."

With upgrades to the stadium structure in 2011 and the addition of a new scoreboard in 2015, Joe Quintal Field no longer ranks among the worst in the GPAC and Eastern South Dakota Conference. An artificial turf field would only improve a strong venue, Hart said.

"It's a great facility and it's a great shared facility," Hart said. "I think it's somewhere that people enjoy watching a game."