Various events bring thousands to the Don Barnett Arena each year. But, the venue for these events could change depending on the outcome of a recent Americans With Disabilities Complaint filed against the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. "We've known for quite some time that it's not compliant," Civic Center Manager Brian Maliske said.
While multiple architecture firms have been hired in the past to find a solution to the problem, nothing has been done. According to Maliske, that's in part because architects aren't sure fixing it is even possible. "Rather than plowing tens of millions of dollars into the Barnett Arena, which is a 1977's vintage, it makes sense to build new," Maliske said.
Currently the arena has forty handicap seats that are accessible via elevator. The only way to gain access to other seating is by using stairs. These problems are nothing new and something civic center management, the Mayor and city council planned to address in the near future. The decision to build a new arena or upgrade the existing one was part of an expansion plan proposed earlier this year. Ward four city council member Amanda Scott says the complaint could derail that proposal and even prevent locals from putting in their two cents. "Unfortunately it's going to take it out of the citizen's hands because we won't have the time to put it to a vote of the people," Scott said. Maliske is more optimistic, "It just expedites the process."
One way or another there will be changes to the arena that will likely cost millions of dollars. "It doesn't mean the arena has to shut down, but what it does mean is that we can no longer just sit on it for another decade," Maliske said.
Department of Justice workers have already toured the arena. A report on their findings is expected in about 18 months. Maliske says he doesn't know who filed the complaint.
The city will likely pay for any future projects with Vision funds.