Athletic Director Gives Argus Leader Tour of New Stadium
Monday, August 17, 2009
For Augie, there's no place like home
Vikings to unveil Kirkeby-Over Stadium for Sept. 5 campus opener
Matt Zimmer, Argus Leader
The countdown has begun for the official unveiling of Kirkeby-Over Stadium, Augustana's $11 million campus football facility, which will be ready for the team's home opener Sept. 5 against Emporia (Kan.) State.
Fans of the Vikings - and all Sioux Falls residents - have been able to follow the progress of the stadium as it took shape over the past year at 37th Street and Lake Avenue.
But the project seems especially important to the Augustana "lifers," the ones who have endured decades of athletic struggles, subpar facilities and off-campus football that often drew a limited student following.
On a recent trip through Kirkeby-Over, some of the most familiar of those faces were on hand, and the smiles burned as bright as the hot August sun.
There was longtime athletic director and former basketball coach Bill Gross, so excited and light on his feet while giving the tour that his guest, half his age, could barely keep up with him.
"We wanted this place to be uniquely special," Gross said while crossing the tunnel on the north end, where the Viking players will enter. "And it's exceeded our hopes and expectations."
There was Larry Borgum, the roly-poly, die-hard Viking who's seen it all in a variety of roles over the last half-decade at Augie, sitting in the bleachers with an umbrella and a happy grin.
"Can you think of a better way to spend a summer day?" Borgum asked after breathlessly rattling off a list of unknown underclassmen who'd caught his eye that day in practice. "This place," he said, pausing to look around, "is just beautiful."
There was football coach Brad Salem, needing a shave and a shower, bouncing off the field like a 12-year-old called in for dinner.
"Pretty neat, huh?" he said. "Let's just say the tempo in practice has been a little higher than when we were going on an empty lot."
And there was Bob Hall, the longtime equipment manager who also happened to pitch in $6.1 million toward the construction of this facility. The gruff and soft-spoken Hall named the stadium in honor of the parents of his wife, Kari.
It will stand in memory of her father, Percy Kirkeby (Augustana class of 1947), and her mother, Elizabeth Markley Kirkeby Over (class of 1944). Percy Kirkeby, who died in a plane crash in 1951, was editor of the Augustana student newspaper and later worked as a reporter at the Argus Leader.
"My expectations were lower than this," Hall said, gesturing toward the press box and luxury suite structure that rises high above the home bleachers on the stadium's west side. "I didn't envision something quite like this. It's beautiful."
Indeed it is.
In total, Kirkeby-Over will cost $11 million, with the additional $5 million coming from a combination of gifts from more than 40 donors. It was designed by TKDA, an engineering, architecture and planning firm based in the Twin Cities, and built by Sioux Falls Construction under project manager Bob Winkels.
Surrounded by brick walls, the stadium has a seating capacity of 6,000 - 4,000 on the home side (including 1,300 chair-backed seats) and 2,000 on the visitor's side. There is the potential to accommodate more on the grass berms that line each end zone.
Parking could be a little tricky, since the east (Elmen Center) and west lots combine for just 650 spaces. Gross pointed out that there is additional parking on other campus lots and along surrounding streets, and there will be a free shuttle taking fans to the stadium from Champps.
Priority parking is being sold for the east and west lots, and the remaining spots will be sold for $5 starting at 12:30 p.m. on game days.
Commanding your attention upon entering the stadium from the east entrance is a 67-by-39 foot scoreboard complete with a high definition video board.
Looming above the south end zone, it's similar to the one installed at South Dakota State's Coughlin-Alumni Stadium after the Jackrabbits' move to Division I.
From there, a visitor's attention is likely to swing to the west side of the stadium, where the two-story press/suite box rises above the home bleachers.
The lower level houses 11 VIP suites - 10 that feature seating for 12, and a president's suite that seats 24 and will serve as something of a hospitality area for guests of Augustana president Rob Oliver.
All 11 suites have counters, cabinets, refrigerators, flat-screen cable TV and heating and air conditioning.
The upper level includes coach/scouting boxes, radio, TV, statistics, working press and film rooms, as well as the video control room, as Augie will hire an 11-person crew to operate game-day production and video.
There are no lights at the stadium, which explains why all of Augie's home games will start at 1 p.m. But Gross left open the possibility for night football down the road.
"The conduit is in, and it's something we've talked about," he said. "But at this point, no plans have been made to do that. We got everything wired in case we decide to do it later."
The concourse area is similar to that of Howard Wood Field. The visitor's locker room (which seems fairly small) is beneath the bathrooms on the south end, and will double as the Kirby Golf Center on non-game days. The men's and women's golf team will use it as an indoor practice facility.
Once fans take their seat, they'll have an intimate and impressive view.
The Duraspine Fieldturf is recessed six feet into the ground, putting fans on top of the action. With no track surrounding the field, fans in the front row are just 30 feet from being in play.
The Augustana players will make their entrance through the above-ground tunnel behind the north end zone, which marks the end of a walkway from the locker room in the Hall Football Complex at the Elmen Center.
"Running through that tunnel the first time is going to be an amazing experience," said offensive lineman Clint Berentschot. "To be a part of that kind of atmosphere - to have a stadium that's yours, on campus, where the students can just walk over - it's just really exciting. I can't wait."
Nobody can, it seems. After 51 years in the historic and revered, yet soul-less Howard Wood Field, the Vikings are hoping to create a football culture on their campus that Sioux Falls has never known.
"We never cut any corners," says Gross. "Whenever we had to make a decision between spending a little extra money or going without something, we spent the money. I just couldn't possibly be more pleased."
Matt Zimmer has covered Augustana athletics for the Argus Leader since 2004. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get your tickets at augietickets.com for the opening season at Kirkeby-Over Stadium. The public is also invited to join the Augustana College community in celebrating the official opening of Kirkeby-Over Stadium on Tuesday, September 1.