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DWU seeks community connection in new space

EDITORS' NOTE: The following story is the second in a three-part series on the impact of the new Corrigan Fieldhouse at Dakota Wesleyan University and its effect on Tiger athletics. One of Ed Kieff's favorite parts of the new athletic fieldhouse ...

Dakota Wesleyan track athletes run along the track while the women's softball team practices inside the Corrigan Fieldhouse at the Dakota Wesleyan/Avera Sports and Wellness Complex on Monday afternoon. (Matt Gade/Republic)
Dakota Wesleyan track athletes run along the track, while the women's softball team practices in the background inside the Corrigan Fieldhouse at the Dakota Wesleyan/Avera Sports and Wellness Complex on Monday afternoon. (Matt Gade/Republic)

EDITORS’ NOTE: The following story is the second in a three-part series on the impact of the new Corrigan Fieldhouse at Dakota Wesleyan University and its effect on Tiger athletics.

One of Ed Kieff's favorite parts of the new athletic fieldhouse at Dakota Wesleyan University has nothing to do with the building's state-of-the-art batting cages or sheer size of the building.

Instead, the Tigers' head softball coach said he loves the fact that it allows for athletes and local community members alike to intermingle while each works out and uses the building.

"I think it's been big for the community because they have a great facility to use as well," he said. "I know I've had people tell me that they enjoy getting to see the athletes working out and I think our athletes like having that connection to people in the community. Both groups feel a sense of community in that way."

In the first few months the building has been used, DWU has held camps and tournaments at the Corrigan Fieldhouse inside the DWU/Avera Sports and Wellness Complex, events that will allow the building to be used by other members of the community. DWU Athletic Director Curt Hart said he expects the building to be busy throughout the year, in addition to DWU's practices and training.

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"We know that every coach is going to want to have an event in there for our school," he said. It's going to be a fundraising tool for us to have camps and events in there on weekends. Mitchell, the entire area, doesn't really have a facility like this and I think it's going to be a key asset to the entire Mitchell area."

Hart said that it will take a few months for the school to figure out what hours DWU's teams and athletes will need the facility and what hours will be available to potentially rent out the facility for other events. He said the facility should be able to bolster the university's already strong stable of camps and clinics for youth athletes and teams.

"We have the biggest following for our camps than anyone in the state," he said. "The camps are already popular because they're in a central location and this is just a great place and we have good instructors. There's camps in Sioux Falls and in Rapid City, but when we have camps, we always do well."

The university has already broken in the building with a few youth events, including a youth basketball tournament with 70 teams on Jan. 13. Hart said initially they planned to have four basketball courts inside the track area of the fieldhouse, but found the space between courts for fans and teams would be cramped and instead went with three courts.

Other sports are already making use of the new space. Kieff said there's plans for youth softball games for under-10 and under-12 teams later this spring, because those players aren't as powerful from a hitting standpoint and are less likely to hit the roof with a flyball.

The next biggest community event for the fieldhouse will come in February when the university holds the Wesleyan Winter Classic. University officials are expecting their largest field ever with about 100 teams participating. The tournament is open to teams from under-10 to under-19.

The building's basketball court surface was lined specifically for futsal, which is a type of indoor soccer with five players on a team and a smaller ball.

"That's going to be a great test for what kinds of events we can have here, no doubt," Hart said.

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The building also figures to be used by area high school teams for prep track meets in the early part of the spring season. DWU track and field and cross country coach Derik Fossum said it's not likely that there will be any competitive meets in the fieldhouse this season - prep or college - but would hope to have the facility running meets in 2016-17.
Hart said there's been numerous discussions with Mitchell Activities Director Geoff Gross about having a high school indoor track meet in the building down the line. Four other universities in South Dakota - Black Hills State, Northern State, South Dakota and South Dakota State - have 200-meter indoor tracks that are feasible for hosting indoor meets and all have plans for high school meets this year.

"It's definitely something I would like to see here," Fossum said. "I'm picking up on things that we can do when we want to host meets. I think it's going to be a great place to host meets, it's going to be spectator-friendly and I hope it's a place where runners post good times and have a good experience here."

Community members with access to the fitness center are able to use the track space through their membership with GreatLife, the business that is operating the fitness facility for DWU. Separate walking track passes can also be purchased. Hart said he figures the building will likely be a recruiting tool for the university as a whole and the school's camps and clinics could be a way for future students to get a look at DWU that they otherwise might not have.

"The possibilities are endless by having youth on our campus," he said. "It's only going to open up our school to a new audience. And there could be kids in Alexandria or in Mount Vernon who have never been on our campus and we can show this off."

Related Topics: TRACK AND FIELD
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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