Sioux Falls, S.D., might seem like a strange location for a big-school matchup between the Gophers and Oklahoma State, whose campuses are a combined 840 miles away. But the Sanford Pentagon, the venue for Saturday night’s game, is fast becoming a popular neutral-site destination for programs all over the country.
The Pentagon — a five-sided facility with nine basketball courts — is owned by Sanford Health, a nonprofit health care system named after University of Minnesota donor T. Denny Sanford. Since it opened two years ago, it has already played host to five Division I games on Heritage Court, the main floor that seats 3,250 and combines executive suites and high-definition video boards with 1950s and ’60s design. The $19 million Pentagon is normally the home of NBA D-League Sioux Falls Skyforce and has hosted many other events, including a Timberwolves exhibition game vs. Milwaukee shortly after opening.
Gophers coach Richard Pitino said playing at the Pentagon was attractive as a way to add a “marquee” nonconference matchup. Some power conference programs, the Gophers included, are hesitant to schedule home-and-homes in the nonconference season with tough league schedules ahead.
“When the Sanford Pentagon approached us about playing a game, we jumped at the opportunity because of past experiences with other teams and how much they raved about the facility,” Pitino said. “It is run in a first-class way and something we wanted to be a part of.”
No. 4 Iowa State beat Colorado in front of a sold-out crowd at the Pentagon in its season opener on Nov. 13. The venue hosted three games last year that included big names Wichita State, Memphis and UNLV, after Wisconsin and St. John’s inaugural collegiate matchup in 2013.
Eric Larsen, general manager of the complex, wrote on Sanford’s website that the Pentagon “is evolving into a basketball destination.”
“As the Pentagon’s reputation grows,” he said, “so does our ability to draw more top-level basketball to Sioux Falls.”