Photos by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Dakota Dome 414 E Clark St Vermillion, SD 57010
Year Opened: 1979
At Home in the Black Hills
The Dakota Dome (officially spelled as one word with no space) in Vermillion, South Dakota is home to the South Dakota Coyotes football team of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, a part of college football’s Division 1-AA, also known as FCS. The football field is in the same building as the Coyotes’ basketball arena, which you can walk over and see during the football game – the dome was built in 1979, and the football portion holds 10K fans.
One thing to remember when you visit the Dakota Dome is that at the University of South Dakota, Coyote is actually pronounced kai-yoat (2 syllables) rather than the more common pronunciation kai-yo-tay (3 syllables). You should also remember to wear red (and howl intermittently) to support the home team.
Food & Beverage 3
The Dakota Dome won’t give you everything you want in terms of food and beverage options at a football venue, but there are plenty of choices and the prices are very reasonable (read inexpensive). Also, there are a bunch of tables and chairs set up in the concourse between the football field and the basketball court, as well as lots of free-standing plush chairs, so you can eat out there if you want instead of in your regular seat.
Food options include nachos, walking tacos, hot dogs, brats, burgers, Philly cheesesteak, pizza, pretzels, popcorn, caramel corn, packaged candy, and chips; drink selections include soda, bottled water, and Gatorade. All individual items cost between $1.50 and $5.50, with combos coming in at $7 to $8. No alcohol is sold inside the Dakota Dome (except in the club area), but you are welcome to BYOB and drink outside in the tailgate zone, which is crowded and raucous all game long.
Besides the really great tailgating, the Dakota Dome also has the benefit of being an indoor venue, which is a major plus on frigid days up north, especially in October and November after the temperatures have started to drop.
The football portion of the Dakota Dome has about three-quarters of its seats on the home side beneath the press box, with the ones in the front and down the middle being bucket-style with chair backs, and the remainder being plastic-capped metal bleachers. The much smaller student section/seating for the band is on the opposite side of the field, and also consists of capped seats, which are much more comfortable than metal bleachers. All of the seats around the field are Coyote red, which creates a great look, and there is also plenty of other school décor around the field and in the concourse – the most prominent and intimidating being the mural-sized photo behind one end zone of a hungry-looking Coyote looking right into your eyes (note that there is no end zone seating here).
The other really great feature about the Dakota Dome is that re-entry is allowed, so fans can practically come and go as they please. In fact, on my most recent visit I don’t remember a single staff member even looking at, much less scanning, my ticket, and all game long I saw fans traipsing outside and back in again, or walking down the hall to sit on the student side instead, with absolutely no interference nor comment from any staff member.
Vermillion, South Dakota has about as many residents as the Dakota Dome holds (about 10K), so there isn’t a ton to do in the area if you come for the day or weekend. However, there is a nice little downtown area just off campus that has a couple of restaurants, and it is easy enough to find a hotel nearby if you plan to spend the night.
Given Vermillion’s small population, South Dakota Coyote fans deserve credit for coming out in force to support their team. At a typical game the Dakota Dome will be close to sold out, although note that about 25% of the fans seem to be supporting the visiting team. But the home fans that do show up are pretty loud, and they wear their own team gear to successfully outshine the large contingent of visitors.
One interesting thing to note though is that even though the stadium will be close to sold out, you will see a lot of empty seats, and that is mainly because so many fans are outside tailgating. In fact, if the game goes south and USD is down big at the half, many of the home fans will simply go outside to drown their sorrows at the tailgates, but they won’t necessarily go home, so if the Coyotes manage to stage a comeback you could very well see a lot of home fans come back inside.
Getting to the Dakota Dome is very easy; the only downside is it might be pretty far away depending on where you’re coming from. But there is very little traffic in town, which is a huge plus, and if you don’t have a parking pass there is free parking on Alumni Drive to the west of the venue – this is a grass lot but has more than enough room for everyone.
Once you get inside the Dakota Dome moving around is fairly easy, but the concessions and women’s restrooms may back up a little, because there are just not enough of them to accommodate even the modest capacity of 10K. Note that there are additional concessions and restrooms in another part of the building, but they are a little difficult to find and obviously not as convenient as the regular ones – part of the access issue here is there are no concessions nor restrooms on the student side, so all those fans have to come over and use the amenities on the home side.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets to South Dakota Coyotes games at the Dakota Dome cost $40 no matter which seats you purchase, which is a little odd, and the venue is often nearly sold out, so if you buy from the box office only the “worst” section is available. However, you can buy from third-party resellers and save a little money, and if you happen to be a student you can get in for free.
While these ticket prices are a bit on the high end for FCS, this is outweighed a little by the free parking and the cheap concessions, so if you are able to find tickets for a good price this can still be a fun outing that is kind on the wallet.
Being able to come and go as you please is awesome, but being able to watch football indoors is even better. The Coyotes also have a great mascot who interacts with fans throughout the game, and the concourse has TVs all around the inside, including by the concessions, so you can still keep an eye on the game while you are moving to and fro.
While the South Dakota Coyotes may never be thought of as a hotbed for college football, especially given that they are FCS, a visit to the Dakota Dome in Vermillion, South Dakota is a great way to see college football. You can take in some great scenery, while also enjoying a game in comfort and style without having to brave the elements – that alone makes this a stadium worth journeying