Saying Goodbye to Basketball at the South Dakota DakotaDome
The official "swan song" of basketball at the DakotaDome happens this weekend with two games taking place. It's time to take a look back at some memories.
I spent a lot of time inside the DakotaDome during my years of attending USD. It's also the spot where I first started my sports broadcasting career. Looking back, and having been there during the DII-DI transition, there are many memories that will always stay with me.
There was this certain sound that use to ring over the dome during basketball games in the past. During the transition years (Independent to Great West Conference) there wasn't ever a full house when playing the likes of New Jersey Institute of Technology, or Houston Baptist. That sound was typically the speakers ringing in the ceiling. The band would scream and chant as loud as they could to give some form of a home-court advantage. Seriously, those guys were awesome. Luckily now it's much better when it comes to the crowd (with some room to improve).
I was in the middle of a conversation with then head coach of the women's team Ryun Williams about the game on this certain night. The teams just received a brand new basketball floor and it was installed that day. Coach Williams looked at me and said "I hope we have a game tonight." In a confused state, I asked why there wouldn't be and he responded by saying that every basketball player and team manager was on the floor scrapping off leftover glue that was on it. Sure enough, they were and they managed to have it ready by that night.
It wasn't always negative. There is something magical about the DakotaDome. Even the best shooters that graced that floor (looking at you Nate Wolters) struggled to find a rhythm inside the un-friendly confines of the facility. It was hard to judge a shot with the depth perception and size of the place. When the place was full and loud, it was LOUD.
The first game that USD was able to host SDSU after both were in the Summit League was a game that I won't ever forget. The dome was packed as full as it could get to see the two rivals renew the series. I was able to broadcast the game on our student station (and next to my best friend who worked for SDSU's student station). It was a USD victory that night to cap it all.
Over the last couple of years the sports department has done a fantastic job of making it feel more "big time" around the court. Adding some banners, VIP areas on the corners, and having the court surrounded by new bleachers made it appear more like a basketball venue. They've dressed it up as much as they could and fortunately they were able to go shopping for a new place.
A new era of Coyote basketball is on the horizon. I'm very excited for the new venue and the atmosphere that it will bring. It was a needed change for USD, especially when it comes to recruiting, and one that will increase the excitement for both the men's and women's programs.
But before we get there it will be nice to sit back and watch the final games take place at the DakotaDome this weekend. I'm sure many of us have some form of a basketball memory there, whether back in the NCC days or current day. No matter the case, it will be special weekend in Vermillion.
The USD women face SDSU Saturday at 2:00. Then the Coyote men host Denver Sunday afternoon at 2:00 to put an end to basketball in the DakotaDome.