A New Chapter for Local Landmarks
The City of Aberdeen has purchased and will be utilizing the Strode Activity Center and other facilities on the former Presentation College campus.

A New Chapter for Local Landmarks

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The City of Aberdeen purchased the Strode Activity Center, dome, and soccer field from the Presentation Sisters last fall.

When Presentation College shuttered its doors last spring, there was a deep sadness among students, alumni, and community leaders. For more than 70 years, the college stood as a landmark on the north side of Aberdeen, with numerous large investments in infrastructure over the previous decade. What would become of the campus?

While the fate of some buildings remains in question, there is plenty of activity on campus today. Late last fall, the Presentation Sisters agreed to sell the Strode Activity Center, dome, and soccer field to the City of Aberdeen, further cementing the Sisters’ legacy of service. The purchase also included adjacent parking and five acres of land north of the dome.

“It was very important to the Sisters that these facilities could be as open to the public as possible,” said Mark Hoven, director of the Aberdeen Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department. “They felt the City was in the best position to offer that.”

Talks were underway in October, when the Presentation Sisters and City partnered to raise the dome for the season – a process that involves professional support from Minneapolis and numerous volunteers. With the help of the Public Works Department, more than 160 local volunteers, and an assist from Mother Nature with several warm sunny days, the dome was back.

Hoven’s team moved quickly, pulling in department leaders to develop transition plans for the facilities, including a fee structure, operations policies, maintenance and staffing needs, deep cleaning, and inventorying and ordering equipment. Aquatics and Recreation Supervisor Travis Lemer was tapped to lead the charge, working to open the facilities as soon as possible while ensuring the foundation was in place to do so safely. Staff had a lot of work to do, and the public was clamoring to get inside.

“When we took ownership, nobody had been in these spaces for a while. These were new buildings for us, and we had a lot of work to do to get them ready,” Hoven said. “The doors had been closed for many months, but the team broke down the needs and got it done.”

The Dome

Hub City Soccer Club Geffdog Invite Tournament

The Hub City Soccer Club’s Geffdog Invitational was hosted at the dome.

Owning and operating a dome is a new challenge for the City, so they started with extensive conversations with the manufacturer. Initially put up in 2015 for $2.4 million, experts estimate the dome is only halfway through its life cycle and could have another decade before it needs replacement. The Parks and Recreation team has been tackling challenges with air pressure and proper heating inside the dome and learning how to groom and maintain artificial turf. Impact tests are planned for the turf, to better understand when replacement might be necessary.

Hoven says demand for dome rentals has been high, and partnerships are in place with a number of local organizations. Hub City Soccer Club hosted its annual indoor soccer tournament there in January, and signed on right away to utilize the facilities for winter training.

“The dome is important for Hub City Soccer Club, as it is the host site for our indoor tournament. This tournament has been regarded as one of the better indoor tournaments in the state and that’s mainly because of the great facility,” said Jared Fischbach, Hub City Soccer Club board president. “For the players it’s a great opportunity to be able to play soccer during the winter months that is more similar to outdoor soccer.”

Fischbach noted that without the dome, players were limited to training in gym space during the winter. Now soccer players of all ages have the opportunity to train on the dome’s turf, which is more realistic to outdoor soccer and allows more players on the field at a time.

With the dome in play, he also sees potential opportunities to start spring soccer earlier. Typically, the season can’t begin until the snow has melted and the fields at Moccasin Creek Soccer Complex are dry, but with the dome, the season’s start wouldn’t necessarily be weather-dependent.

The extensive space inside the dome is also attractive to Northern State University’s athletic teams. Football, soccer, baseball, softball and cross country have all expressed interest in utilizing the dome for practices.

The dome’s potential stretches further. A wood bat baseball tournament is slated for this spring, and many community members have reached out with ideas. Lemer says the department is open to exploring new ideas and ways to use the dome, as they work toward a long-term vision for utilizing the facilities. With a 72-foot ceiling and more than 100,000 square feet of turf, you could say the sky is nearly the limit.

Strode Center

Over at the Strode Activity Center, the department faces another challenge, working to transition a collegiate facility into a public recreation center. The Strode features a main gym that can be

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The Strode Activity Center is one of the facilities that was included in the purchase.

partitioned into two courts and an exercise area with fitness equipment.

Like the dome, requests for rentals at the Strode have been increasing. Lemer sees opportunity for private rentals, basketball and volleyball tournaments, and summer camps. With significant interest and input from local pickleball players, Lemer has already outfitted the Strode for pickleball court rentals.

Short-term plans for the gym include restriping the courts, which are currently striped for collegiate play. In the future, the department will assess the Strode Activity Center’s remaining spaces, including offices, locker rooms and training rooms, to see how those areas might be more effectively used.

Increasing Accessibility

With the trust of the Presentation Sisters to increase public access, the Parks and Rec department pushed for a soft open of the dome and Strode in late December. The community response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We’re still learning and finding the right mix of open hours, staffing, and rentals,” Lemer said. “We’re starting to get some regular users, and lots of families coming in. It’s exciting to see usage picking up. Most cities don’t have something like this, and we are incredibly lucky to have these available right here in Aberdeen.”

Community members can purchase single day passes or multi-use punch cards that cover entry to the facilities. Hoven said the goal was to keep fees reasonable, while also recouping some of the cost to maintain the properties.

Jackie Whitlock, director of the Aberdeen Senior Center, says Senior Center members have been excited to have another option for staying active during the cold winter months. By late January, twenty members had been over to walk the track around the dome, play pickleball in the Strode, or use the exercise equipment.

The Next Chapter

Now that the facilities are open, Hoven and his team don’t have any plans to slow down. The extensive work and long hours to get acquainted with the facilities and open the doors was just the beginning.

“Step one was get open. The next phase is future planning, developing goals and a long-term plan for these facilities. I hope we can do some neat things,” Lemer said.

Some initial proposals include reviewing the parking options and laying asphalt in the gravel parking lot west of the dome.

With the acquisition of the fields to the north, there is potential for a future road to create an additional access point for the facilities from the north. Hoven also hopes to review the department’s trail system plans, with potential to build new trails around the property that connect to the existing trail system.

The soccer field north of the Strode Activity Center is another area of opportunity, as the department explores the best ways to utilize the space.

Lemer sees endless opportunity ahead for the City’s newest recreational investment.

“Our department is in the memory making business. It’s a responsibility that becomes part of our why, and to have that opportunity in your hands is extremely rewarding,” Lemer said. “There is potential to provide amazing amenities to an entire community and offer things we haven’t been able to provide before. There are lots of ideas on the table, and it’s an exciting time.”

Hoven is proud of the department’s all-hands-on-deck approach to bringing the former Presentation College facilities back to the community.

“The Presentation Sisters had a vision to leave a seed behind. They did a great job preparing to make this transition,” Hoven said. “Their generosity allowed the city and community to have access to great facilities and we’re happy to do our part to ensure they’re utilized. And they are great facilities. Walking in the dome on a winter day is like being in a park on a spring afternoon – but without the mosquitos.” //

Open Dome Hours

Monday-Friday 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Saturday-Sunday Noon – 5 p.m.

Strode Activity Center Hours

Monday-Friday 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Saturday-Sunday Noon – 5 p.m.


$2 daily entry to the dome

$5 daily to both the Strode and dome

$50 for 30-use punch card (one use includes access to both Strode and dome)

Weekly schedules are posted on the Parks, Recreation and Forestry website, aberdeen.sd.us, and Facebook page, facebook.com/AberdeenPRF.