Augustana University launches Division I mens hockey program

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Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, will debut an NCAA Division I men’s hockey team in 2023-24, university officials said Tuesday.

The announcement came during a groundbreaking ceremony for the campus’ $40 million Midco Arena that will house the team.

Construction for the state-of-the-art, 3,000-seat arena is being fueled by a lead gift from South Dakota billionaire and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, Midco, Sanford Health and other key donors.

“Augustana’s program is the first of its kind in the state,” said Sanford, founder of First Premier Bank. “Sioux Falls needs a great college hockey program and under the leadership of president Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Augustana is the place to make it happen.”

Kevin Westgarth, NHL Vice President of Hockey & Strategic Collaboration, lauded Sanford’s gift and welcomed Augustana to the NCAA Division I men’s hockey family. Fifty-nine Division I men’s hockey programs are set to compete this season.

“Augustana University, with the generous support of Denny Sanford, is taking a bold step today, breaking ground on a new facility here on its campus in Sioux Falls,” Westgarth said. “The shovel’s first cut into the earth is not just the beginning of the foundation of a building, but a foundation of a community. The NHL is proud to support the Vikings in this effort and applaud their ongoing commitment to their students and their city.” 

Augustana University is a liberal arts institution affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and has more than 2,000 students.

The addition of hockey is part of a strategic plan to provide student-athletes the opportunity to compete at a higher level. 

Augustana, which currently competes in 22 sports, is elevating its athletics from NCAA Division II to Division I.

“Hockey is the right program at the right time for where Augustana is now, and it’s just been so affirming because of all the enthusiasm that our campus, alumni, community and donors have expressed,” Sandlin said. “This is more than a men’s hockey program at Augustana. This is a university-wide initiative that has great potential impact for our city and region.”

Augustana plans to have a coach hired by May 2022 to give that person time to recruit and build a roster.

“There’s no better time in the history of college athletics to start a program,” Augustana athletics director Josh Morton said. “The hockey program, and what it means for our campus, is indescribable. And, building a new facility — there’s something invigorating about it, not only for Augustana athletics, but for the broader community.”

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