In Ames or Iowa City, a university t-shirt, sweatshirt and jacket are the universal dress code. Living in a campus community is a rallying point, an identity, and part of the fun of living in a young and vital place.
Storm Lake is gradually getting there too, as the lines between community and campus at Buena Vista University are beginning to blur.
Slowly, the seats at a BVU basketball game begin to fill up. Slowly, more and more cultural events on campus are opened up to the community, and slowly, more people feel comfortable joining the students at them. Slowly, more students get involved and volunteer off campus. The lines blur, and this is a better place for it.
Last weekend, the BVU athletic department hosted kids' night at the fieldhouse, and it was a blast. All year long, little kids show up to rebound for the athletes during warm-ups, but Saturday, the basketball stars returned the favor as every kid in the place got a chance to shoot for prizes. The college also gave out prizes and free admission for the children.
It seems like a little thing, but it isn't to children who will always remember getting to run out on a college floor to shoot a basketball and have athletes like Adam Jones and Kelli Taylor snag boards for them. Likewise, football players and cheerleaders take kids trick-or-treating around campus in the fall.
At BVU this year, you have a scrappy and exciting women's basketball team that is always fun to watch, and a men's team that is the absolute class of the Iowa Conference and a great example of unselfishness, hustle and team play. All the same things could be said of coach Baxter's wrestlers, Coach O's football team and all the rest of the BVU sports programs.
There shouldn't be an empty seat. The place should come apart when the cheerleaders and the new dance squad come onto the floor. It should be filled with blue and gold to the rafters, with all those quirky little traditions that help make college sports so great, and living in a college town a blast.
Sports isn't all a college is about, but it can be a rallying point for a whole community, and the athletes and coaches can be role models. If there's been some high-profile problems with a very small minority of students in recent years, there's an awful lot more just on that basketball floor that a kid can look up to.
One day soon, a BVU sweatshirt will be standard dress code in Storm Lake, and you'd feel naked without one. Before to long, you'll have to get to a game half an hour early to get a seat. And before long, the community will feel as comfortable on campus to share in the games, plays and music and art, and topical speakers and education opportunities as they do at the local grocery store or park. It's all coming, gradually.
It's one more resource that makes Storm Lake a world better than any of its rival cities in northwest Iowa, in our humble opinion.
How we use that resource is up to us.
Briefly - Kudos to Congressman Tom Latham, for his efforts in obtaining funds for a BVU Science Center, a personal visit to Storm Lake recently, and accessibility for the area's concerns. He's a decided lame duck, as his home will move into a new district, and he won't be representing the Storm Lake area when he goes to the next election. He could easily ignore this area and spend his time campaigning in his new district-to-be. Let it not be said that Latham hasn't followed through on his responsibilities.