Ninth Civic Center presentation discusses tourism

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RAPID CITY, S.D. -

Tourism and economy comprised talks on the future of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center and Rapid City.

Mayor Steve Allender gave his ninth public presentation on the Civic Center expansion at the Hilton Garden Inn on Saturday.

Allender started the discussion with a history lesson. He compared Rapid City's past attractions, such as the World's First Alfalfa Palace, to today's entertainment plaza, which hosts a variety of events.

The exhibit then explored the Civic Center's influence on the local economy. Allender recalled that the plaza drew big crowds across the country, which contributes to the success of the state's tourism industry and 10,000 jobs therein. However, he also said that performances by household-name entertainers, once common, have waned over recent years.

Allender said that having a entertainment hub is vital to the health of a city.

"This all goes to facilitate quality of life, fun things to do ... the new building will generate its own revenue and will be self-sustaining, just as the model we have right now," Allender said.

The Civic Center expansion would repurpose the Don Barnett Arena into a basic event center, and a larger arena would be built instead.

Mayor Allender is in favor of the expansion. He said that the project would keep young professionals from moving on to bigger cities. He also said the development would create jobs during its construction.

The mayor described Rapid City as a "travel destination." He said that adding on to the venue will help the city retain that title year-round.

"Obviously, we have no trouble with that in our on-season, May through September," Allender said. "The rest of the times of the year, we have some valleys in that activity that brings about some instability."

The expansion will go to vote on the June 5th primary ballot.

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