Competition pushes Rushmore Plaza Civic Center makeover - KOTA Territory News

Competition pushes Rushmore Plaza Civic Center makeover

In sports, competition brings out the best in the athlete. In business, competition usually spawns a better service, for a better price. In the civic center business, competition is forcing the board of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center to consider expansion and improvements.

In 1978, former Mayor Don Barnett spoke at the ribbon cutting for the newly named Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.  Barnett said, "The joy is not for one person or the hundreds of people involved, but the true joy is for the people who will live in Rapid City and enjoy this facility for the next 50, 60 even 70 years."
Now, almost forty years since the Civic Center was designed, discussions have begun for a major rehabilitation and addition to this facility, to again capitalize on the Black Hills' visitor industry and to compete for lucrative state and national events.
The Barnett Arena was built in the 1970's essentially to lure the state basketball to Rapid City.  Now, the board is asking citizens to dream big.  The latest plan calls for knocking down the wall to the west toward Central High School.  Then, replacing that wall with a movable wall and a proposed expansion by 175 percent.  It would allow the Civic Center to host a football game, not arena football, but real football and more big events:  indoor track, full court soccer, two simultaneous rodeos with more space for the barrel riders who now have to pull up short.
Rapid City Councilman Ritchie Nordstrom is advocating for expansion. 

"We are out there asking the public, asking what would you like to see in a new arena or expansion,"  Nordstrom said. "With that feedback, it will give us more ideas that we haven't even thought of yet - multiple concerts, multiple events."
The latest proposal would include a big expansion to the west (toward Central High School) and a parking structure to the north, built into the hill .Roughly
$115 million for the expansion, $24 million for the 1,000 stall three-story parking structure, and $35 million to strip and retrofit the existing arena.  The grand total: $175 million.
In terms of a price tag, Nordstrom said they have to be cautious.

"It's way too early to give you an exact number.  I describe it as using a number from a car dealership to take to the bank as a number to start negotiations," Nordstrom said. 

He added that property taxes will not increase for the expansion because of the half-cent sales tax already in place in the form of the Vision Fund. This tax built the Civic Center and has built many additions to the Rapid City community.
"No property taxes are going into this,"  Nordstrom explained. "It is all going to be from the Vision Fund which is funded with sales tax.  I want to emphasize that a half to two-thirds of sales tax collected by Rapid City comes from outside the city.  So all of our visitors coming into Rapid City are the ones that are going to be helping us build this building."
Rapid City Councilman John Roberts is not opposed to the Civic Center expansion or to the preliminary price tag; he just wants it to go to a vote of the people. 

"I think the project is wonderful.  I think the vision is wonderful.  I think it's something that needs to be done, but ultimately it's up to the citizens," said Roberts.

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