Rapid City: More Than A Gateway Pt. 3

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An establishment that offers community events, Broadway plays, hockey, and concerts, the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center brings in millions of dollars a year. Executive Director, Craig Baltzer, said it’s all about bringing people to Rapid City.  

"Yeah, it's all about bringing outsiders to Rapid. Spend the night here, get a hotel, restaurants, fill up your car with gas, do some retail shopping, hit the downtown - that's what it's all about,” Baltzer said.

Baltzer calls the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center the biggest economic-impact engine within Rapid City limits. The last time anyone studied the economic impact of the facility, it was $60 million a year, and that was back in 2012.

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"We're a very community-minded event center; we do a lot of community events, fundraising events," Baltzer said. "So when you look at basketball tournaments and the Stock Show, those are some really big ones that you see an economic impact. Even our hockey team. Which most of the time for other cities, hockey teams are pretty local. Our hockey team drives something like 15 to 17 percent of their audience from out of town."

With the ever-changing nature of events and shows on tour, it's natural that the Civic Center sees changes in its income from year to year.

"We definitely have ups and downs from one year to the next in our industry, but it always comes back.," Baltzer said. "People spending money, you know, how the economy is doing. That affects our industry because our industry is a lot about extra spending." 

The Civic Center has taken some heat for not being up to date and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. With a little help from the city, the parking lots, restrooms, and handrails in almost the entire facility are now up to date. There’s just one place that isn’t: the Don Barnett Arena.

Discussions on what direction to take the arena have been happening for some time, and Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender says it comes down to two options.

"We'll present an option just to become compliant and fix the basic safety and operational issues," Allender said. "And we'll have an option to forgo all that and have a different arena. I think those are the logical options. I don't think anyone will expect anything less.”

The mayor plans to present those options to the Rapid City Common Council and the public, offering as much education as needed for the taxpayer to decide before putting it to a vote.

"This will end up being a real community conversation where we present this relentlessly over a period of weeks or months to make sure every person in this city has had an opportunity to view it, weigh in on it, and especially come to an understanding of the problem and both solutions,” Allender said.

A Civic Center Task Force was created at the end of last year, and Allender has been studying their findings. He is due to present to the public at the end of April or beginning of May. With his re-election, the mayor projects there will be a decision made on the Barnett Arena in the next six months.

With the Civic Center coming into compliance, plans for expansion downtown, and a steady economic environment, Rapid City is opening the gates to a brighter future. Watch parts 1 and 2 of Rapid City: More Than A Gateway

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