South Dakota basketball saying goodbye to the DakotaDome

VERMILLION (AP) -- Ask Chad Lavin about his memories of the DakotaDome and you'll likely hear stories about rain. Rain inside the DakotaDome? Yes, said Lavin, the former women's basketball coach at the University of South Dakota, where he won 273...

VERMILLION (AP) - Ask Chad Lavin about his memories of the DakotaDome and you'll likely hear stories about rain.

Rain inside the DakotaDome?

Yes, said Lavin, the former women's basketball coach at the University of South Dakota, where he won 273 games in two stints (1982-86 and 1998-2008).

It wasn't so much actual precipitation as it was snow or rain coming through the old Teflon roof at the 36-year-old DakotaDome in Vermillion.

Such issues were commonplace inside the DakotaDome, which has served as the basketball home for the Coyotes since the facility opened in 1979. A new steel roof installed in 2001 helped alleviate those condensation worries.


"The Dome, originally, just wasn't a very good basketball place," said Lavin, 60, who now serves as director of women's basketball administration at Colorado State.

As USD prepares to hold its final basketball games in the DakotaDome this weekend, former players and coaches remember the facility as a "unique" venue for basketball.

One former men's basketball player, Jeremy Kudera of Yankton, recalls Dome staffers placing 5-gallon buckets or garbage cans in strategic locations to catch water coming down from the roof.

That was part of the building's charm, said Kudera, who played for the Coyotes from 1997-2001.

"It's definitely bittersweet," he told the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan. "The Dome has been a great place, and it's always brought with it a pretty good home court advantage."

The DakotaDome has traditionally been known as a difficult place for visiting teams to play.

Since the first basketball season in 1979-80, both USD basketball squads have won more than 70 percent of their games in the facility. After Wednesday night's win, the Coyote men's program has a record of 396-130 in the Dome, while the women's team boasts a 370-148 record.

That's the kind of history that will understandably make this weekend - women's game Saturday, men's game Sunday - rather interesting: USD will be looking back, while at the same time providing former players with a tour of the new $66 million, 6,000-seat arena.


The anticipation for the new basketball home will only grow, according to Athletic Director David Herbster.

"There's certainly a piece of basketball history that we leave behind that you can't deny," he said. "We've had some incredible basketball played here, coaches, players and teams in here."

Former player Mandy Koupal said one of her most vivid memories of the DakotaDome was its place as a gathering spot on campus. She graduated in 2004 as USD's all-time leading scorer (2,142) and rebounder (1,027).

"The Dome was the place to be," said Koupal, 35, who teaches in Wagner. "We didn't have the wellness center, so we all used the same thing - students and athletes.

"It made it a special place," she said. "It was the hub of the campus."

The multi-use facility, more suited for football, also happened to be the basketball home for the Coyotes. That made selling the DakotaDome to potential recruits a unique challenge for coaches.

"I just remember walking recruits in there, and they would see how huge it was," Koupal said. "We would have to tell them the basketball court will be down there in the middle somewhere.

"It wasn't a typical arena, but it was unique."


Shortly after USD made the transition to Division I in 2008, the conversations about a new home basketball arena became more serious. Ultimately, USD was able to break ground on the new 6,000-seat basketball/volleyball arena in the summer of 2014.

It was a much-needed addition, according to Lavin.

"It's all about keeping up with the Joneses," he said. "That's pretty much what Division I has always done. If one school does something, you've got to.

"Once you go Division I, if you really want to compete, you've got to compete in the facility world, too."

The yet-to-be-named arena, attached to the south of the DakotaDome, will have no concerns about leakage or precipitation.

"Sooner or later, they were going to have to do something, and they did, and congrats to the powers that be," Lavin said. "That will be a fantastic place for a long time."

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