The latest on Augie’s move to the Arena

Last week I addressed Mike Henriksen’s report that Augustana will move its basketball games to the Arena.
Barring some sort of last-minute roadblock or change of heart, it’s happening.
It’s not yet official, but multiple sources within the athletic department have told me the Vikings will begin playing at the Arena next season. A deal could be finalized soon.
It sounds like Augustana would get a very favorable deal to make the move, which may explain why they’re doing it just a few years after sinking over $300,000 into Elmen Center improvements. The Vikings have been told they’ll be able to ‘make the Arena their own’ to some degree, as far as decorating the building to their liking to create a home atmosphere. There are, of course, two Hi-Def video boards in the Arena now, and there’s that chair-back seating that is so important to the Augie fan base.
I’m also told that the plan is to play all home games there, not select games or conference games. I’m not sure if they’ll go through with that entirely. I can see them playing all of their double headers there, but I don’t know that it would be a good idea to play a single non-conference game there. If the Augie women are hosting, say, Mayville State, it might be best to play at the Elmen. You’re only going to get a few hundred fans for a game like that.

There’s a belief that the Arena is a greater recruiting chip, especially for the men. The last time the Vikings were out there, men’s coach Tom Billeter loved it. Women’s coach Dave Krauth did not.
What will attendance look like? Hard to say, but it sounds like they might curtain off the upper sections in an effort to make the place ‘less spacious’. The Vikings have a season ticket holder fan base of almost 2,000, so they don’t have to worry about the place being empty, but I wonder just how many folks will show up to the Arena to watch the Vikings take on Crookston or Minot State.

There are obviously some benefits to making the move. The chair-back seating, of course, better access to bathrooms (ever tried to find the toilets in the Elmen?) and concessions, and I know that neither Billeter or Krauth particularly like that they have to pass through fans in the concourse to get from the lockerroom to the court.
On the flip side, they both have their offices in the Elmen, which makes things easier on gameday.

Also, consider what has changed at Augie since they last played at the Arena.
They’ve built a spectacular $13 million on-campus football stadium. They’ve made tremendous updates to their baseball and tennis facilities and added a home soccer field.
One of the major benefits of this was supposed to be that Augie was creating an ‘athletic village’ of sorts on their campus. Football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, wrestling, volleyball and tennis are now all on campus. There are plans to find a way to bring a track facility to campus, too, they just haven’t figured out exactly what they want to do yet.

And now basketball is apparently being taken out of that equation. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, necessarily, but there is something to be said for having games on campus. The Elmen Center isn’t the Taj Mahal or anything, but I’ve always thought it’s a pretty good Division II venue. Augustana has generally done a pretty decent job of creating one of the better gamenight atmospheres in the NSIC.
But they can probably do better in the Arena, the video boards alone give you chances to get creative.

Stay tuned for more info and/or an official announcement.