Mines News

Release Date Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Vision Funds Proposal Details Improvements for O’Harra Stadium

RAPID CITY, S.D. (Sept. 14, 2016) – A Rapid City Vision Funds request announced today by the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology proposes safety upgrades and other improvements to O’Harra Stadium, a widely used community resource for local high schools and other organizations.

The proposed $2.5 million project would include:

  • New artificial turf and track surface to replace current surfaces nearing the end of their life expectancies. The turf and track will be removed, the substructure will be evaluated, and new, safer turf and track surfaces will be installed.
  • Community playground to welcome families with children of all ages. The playground would be fenced to provide a safe entertainment option for younger fans attending sporting events.
  • Updated digital scoreboard to provide live video feed and replay capability and improve overall fan experience.
  • New wrought iron fencing and brick pillars in front of the stadium to replace the existing chain link fence, improving the aesthetic appeal of the stadium.
  • Digital billboard signage to replace the static display on the north side of the stadium, enabling users such as high school teams to make the stadium their own for their events.

Tens of thousands of people from the Rapid City area pass through O’Harra Stadium gates each year to participate in or attend numerous community events.

In addition to hosting South Dakota Mines Hardrockers athletics events, O’Harra Stadium is used by Stevens High School, Central High School and St. Thomas More High School for football games or track and field events. The stadium is home to regional high school football playoffs and the South Dakota State Track Meet, which is held every third year.

“By working together with the schools, the business community, and the city, we have proposed a project that is affordable, provides a great return on investment for the city, improves safety for athletes, and improves the experience of families and fans that use the stadium,” said SD Mines President Heather Wilson.

The next state high school track meet is scheduled for May 2018. Each state meet brings between 5,500-10,000 people into the community for four days, generating between $3 million and $5.5 million in local revenue. This state track meet will come back to Rapid City a total of three times during the life expectancy of the proposed renovations, making this meet alone a $9 million to $15 million return on investment for Rapid City.

To meet the needs of the next state track meet without disrupting fall 2017 high school and college football schedules, work on the track and playing surfaces would be done in the summer of 2017, an aggressive construction schedule that the School of Mines would manage with the approval of Vision Funds this fall.

“Updates to O’Harra Stadium are a vital piece of the puzzle for Rapid City to continue to host the South Dakota High School state track meets. That weekend every two to three years brings close to 10,000 people to Rapid City and millions of dollars in economic impact. The stadium is most active in the fall and spring, the shoulder seasons for the tourism industry. Supporting this project is a good return on investment for Rapid City,” said Todd Tucker, director of sports & events for the Rapid City Convention & Visitor’s Bureau.

While O’Harra Stadium is home to Friday night football games for the Central Cobblers and the Stevens Raiders, other community events throughout the year are hosted by the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, Regional Health, Rapid City Police and Fire Departments, Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, YMCA, NFL Youth Flag Football, Black Hills Youth Football League, South Dakota National Guard and South Dakota High School Activities Association.

“Last week our high schools played here in the Rushmore Bowl. By working together, we save money for the schools, and our high school athletes have a safer place to play. I particularly like the improved padding for greater safety on the padded artificial turf,” said Rapid City Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Lori Simon.

There is no operating cost to Rapid City. South Dakota Mines and the Rapid City Area Schools cover annual operations and maintenance costs of approximately $115,000.

Improved safety of the turf and track is a key component in the proposal. New turf would include upgraded fiber strength, substructure padding and Ecofill, a granulated environmentally friendly non-vulcanized rubber infill.

O’Harra Stadium was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and, over the years, periodic improvements have been made with university, city and state funds. In 1930, land began to be cleared to make room for a new athletic field on campus. May 18, 1931, was the first day of construction on what would become one of the most unique football stadiums in America with drive-in tailgating ramps around the south and east ends. In 1938 the stadium was dedicated in honor of former Mines president Cleophas Cisney O’Harra.

“We want our events at O’Harra Stadium to be fun for the community and safe for our athletes. We will keep the drive-in design, a unique feature, and work with the Convention and Visitors Bureau to bring more fun activity to Rapid City,” said Hardrockers Athletic Director Joel Lueken.

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About SD Mines  

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,778 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate for graduates is 97 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $61,300. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Snapchat

Contact: Fran LeFort, (605) 394-6082, Fran.LeFort@sdsmt.edu

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