$50 million PAC expansion project win, win for town and gown

By: John Kubal, The Brookings Register

While the Performing Arts Center at South Dakota State University has been recognized as a superb venue for music and studio-theatre productions since its opening in 2003, it was always envisioned that more would be added at some future time.

That time is now – with a 96,000-square-foot expansion at a cost of $50 million.

Preliminary on-site preparation work is under way at the northeast corner of the intersection of Jackrabbit Avenue and University Boulevard. A formal groundbreaking ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. April 28.

Steve Erpenbach, president and CEO of the South Dakota State University Foundation, said the expansion’s “signature pieces” include an 850-seat proscenium theater that will replace Doner Auditorium; a recital hall with 225 seats; a dance studio; and a spacious lobby.

Additionally, the expansion will allow the relocation under one roof all of the Music Department spaces that are now in Lincoln Hall.

When the first piece of this overall big-picture project began with the completion of the PAC, there was about $10 million available for construction.

“They built what they could afford at that time,” Erpenbach said.

The funding for the new construction comes from four sources in what Erpenbach calls “a great collaboration”: $25 million being raised from alumni, friends and community members, with $1.7 million remaining to be raised; $13 million in Higher Education Facility fees paid by students; $6 million from the city of Brookings; and $6 million from SDSU-University Priorities Funds.

“Twenty cents out of every tuition dollar is mandated basically at every campus and goes into the Higher Education Facility Fund,” Erpenbach said, noting the fees paid by students. “Campuses put together plans of what they would like to use that for.

“They don’t keep their own (dollars). It all goes into the system. The regents basically approve plans. The university had advocated for $13 million to be devoted to this.”

As an example of other HEFF dollars being directed to SDSU, he cited $7 million for the Architecture, Mathematics and Engineering building.

“Student investment has been really important for projects, to kind of meld it with private sources. Obviously it’s been a very big part of this,” Erpenbach added.

Major impact on accreditation

Erpenbach further broke out the proscenium theatre and recital hall from the total signature pieces.

“The great thing about the theatre as well is that SDSU and Brookings now will be in a position to host high school events and regional events that they just don’t have the facilities for.

“They’ve talked about the state one-act play in high school. Brookings has not had the facility to be able to host it, and now they will.”

He added to that “the recruitment standpoint of drawing people in from an economic development standpoint, of more people coming to Brookings.”

Finally, Erpenbach noted the factoring in of “the experience that students are going to have, whether they’re in music or theatre or dance, the facility they’re going to have as of January 2019, when it’s expected to be completed.”

The new construction will especially impact re-accreditation of the music program at SDSU and gaining accreditation for the theatre program, he explained, “because facilities are a very big part of accreditation.”

The facility will house SDSU’s emerging School of Performing Arts, where more than 1,000 current students participate as performers. While the public will enjoy performances in the new recital hall and proscenium theatre, the entire facility is academic space.

As an example of the impact of physical facilities on accreditation, Erpenbach cited SDSU’s pharmacy program, “ranked one of the best in the country,” which he said would have been challenged to gain re-accreditation without the Avera Health & Science Center.

“Those bodies that come in and look at accreditation and re-accreditation, they really do look to see if you have the facilities to run a program that meets national standards.”

The time is now

Erpenbach said the Performing Arts Center expansion has “been thought about and talked about for so long.”

Now with the additions to and investments in the athletic and agricultural programs and facilities, the time had come.

“This addresses a need that’s not been ignored,” he added. “It’s always been in the plan, and it’s finally coming to fruition. What’s important about this is that it just shows that SDSU has invested a lot in athletics – but it’s not all about athletics, and it’s not all about ag-bio. It really does show a major investment in the fine arts.”

And the new addition will benefit the entire SDSU student body and not just those students in the fine arts, such as music and theatre.

“When you look at whether it’s the concert choir or the Statesmen or the Pride of the Dakotas, a small number are actually music majors,” Erpenbach explained. “They are made up of basically every college and department.”

Taking a look at the overall impact of the expansion on SDSU, the city of Brookings and the surrounding region – academic, faculty and student recruitment, and economic development – he added, “I think it’s just a win-win all around. ”

Contact John Kubal at jkubal@brookingsregister.com.

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