Safety - driving force behind push to improve/expand Barnett Are - KOTA Territory News

Safety - driving force behind push to improve/expand Barnett Arena

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The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center was a post-flood revitalization effort to allow Rapid City to better compete for tourist dollars and host conventions.  But the nearly 40-year-old building is out of date. 

According to Jeff Bailie, Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Board Chairman, there are three big issues when it comes to rationale for a updated, expanded Civic Center; it's outdated infrastructure, losing a competitive edge on the competition and safety. Bailie said safety is the number one reason the Civic Center Board and Rapid City Council are considering expansion.  It's one of the big drivers for improving and expanding the Barnett Arena. The 1970's facility is not ADA compliant, not able to safely accommodate people with disabilities.
 
"We're now faced with a facility that has served us tremendously well.  But it's old, falling apart, showing its age, not staying up to date with contemporary laws - Americans with Disabilities and the International building code," Bailie said.

People with disabilities are not supposed to be in one area, but rather with seating throughout the arena with the ability to sit with family and friends.  Right now, for example, all the disabled seating is in one area. If there were to be an emergency, everyone would need to go up a ramp to get to the elevator.  There is only one that serves the entire arena, and it can only hold two older-style wheel chairs.

Besides the old freight elevator, the bathrooms are also dated. Not only are there not enough stalls, they are not up to code. And again, not ADA compliant for larger wheelchair in the handicapped stalls.

Even the railings are no longer up to code-- they're too large a circumference for new hand prosthetics.  And Bailie said this is not a situation where they can wait any longer or ignore these building violations and safety concerns. 

That's why over the past two years the process has begun to consider adding on versus retrofitting and trying to fix all the problems in the Barnett Arena.

Rapid City Councilman Ritchie Nordstrom wants to do the expansion before starting to fix the Barnett Arena.

"So that way we can continue to do business as a Civic Center. Whereas if we did the Barnett Arena, we would be shut down and closed for business," Nordstrom explained. "We would not be able to take any revenue in."

Tuesday, our KOTA news extra will focus on the infrastructure needs that are weighing into an expansion of the Barnett Arena.  Wednesday, we'll look at the competitive reasons for expansion and upgrades, along with a preliminary price-tag.

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