What does the Rapid City Sports Commission envision for sports for the future of Rapid City?

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Sports are something that can bring people together, whether it’s for a pickup game of basketball or to cheer for your favorite team.

Domico Rodriguez started his new job on February 1 as the Executive Director for the Rapid City Sports Commission and he says it’s something he dreamed about for many years.

Only about three weeks into the job, Rodriguez is not short of goals, ideas and issues that he hopes to address.

How’s the job going?

As part of Visit Rapid City, Rodriguez says the leadership was passionate about the development of this organization and everyone is excited to get jumping into things.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for sports in Rapid City, and we’re just trying to let the community know how important it is,” Rodriguez said. “One, to our quality of life, but also our sales tax revenue and how much money it brings into the community. So just right now, trying to get our arms around all of the local sports programs and then what opportunities are available for us to grow sports in Rapid City.”

What is the top concern or idea?

Rodriguez says that they signed a deal with an organization that specializes in facility development and facility enhancements. This is so that the commission can work with the company to take a look at the current facilities and figure out opportunities for reinvestments and possibly even a new facility.

“The one common theme that we hear in the community is lack of gym space, particularly in the evenings,” Rodriguez said. “It’s tough to find a place for kids to practice, to play. So long term, looking at potential for a new facility in Rapid City, that’s the most pressing thing right now, and I think that’s where the most benefit will come. It will kind of be a roadmap for us as a community over the next 10 to 15 years, on where we need to go. But first, we need to have a baseline of where we are right now.”

Winter  vs. summer months

“We’ve heard a lot about the availability of sleeping rooms in the summertime when it is busier with tourism, and so there’s still an opportunity to grow some of our local events that we currently host,” Rodriguez said. “But there is a huge opportunity in the winter months. The hoteliers would love to see events periodically that drive hotel revenue and sales tax revenue into the community. So that’s going to be an area of focus.”

Their goal Rodriguez says is also to partner with all youth, amateur, and professional organizations to try to enhance their visibility, including the Rush and the Marshals who are currently in their seasons.

They also recognize and understand that Black Hills weather in the winter can be iffy.

“A lot of people in the region, and particularly the drive markets, they understand it. They live out here as well. They know that there is always a chance for bad weather,” Rodriguez said. “We just want to try and capitalize, particularly in those winter months when we don’t have the consistent tourism base.”

Photos of sports in the Black Hills area:

Youth sports

The benefit of hosting, promoting and possibly creating youth sports events would bring more money into the area regardless of the time of year. Traveling with a daughter or son brings in families, at least parents, but possibly even grandparents, aunts and uncles, all who’d bring more tax revenue and base into the community.

“Working with different regional and national organizations to try to recruit those sporting events, and then there’s an opportunity for us to create events that will drive revenue as well,” Rodriguez said. “That’s something that we’re looking at as well. We’re just trying to be the conduit through all the organizations in Rapid City to make sure that we’re all moving forward in the right manner for sports in Rapid City. A lot of people have a passion for sports, and we’re just trying to make sure that we convey that passion.”

Working with local athletic organizations

“Because I worked as the executive director for Visit Rapid City, working in sports many years ago, a lot of the same contacts are still in place,” Rodriguez said. “Some of the events that we’ve hosted in the past, the leadership within those organizations are still here. The athletic directors and activities directors in the region are still at their job. So, the fortunate thing is we don’t have to start from ground zero. We can kind of continue to build on relationships that we’ve fostered over the years and those opportunities are going to be fruitful.”

He shared that his goal during his first 30 days is to meet with as many sports organizations in the area as he could. Talking with these organizations allows him to understand what opportunities and hurdles there are in the community.

“There’s a lot of prominent universities in our state and in our region that we can work with to try to host regional events from a collegiate standpoint, but also continue to work with the South Dakota High School Activities Association as well. They’ve been great partners,” Rodriguez said. “And our local ADs have been great as well. So just continuing to foster those relationships.”

Weaknesses in Rapid City from the community

The biggest weakness is the lack of necessary facilities to accommodate everyone’s needs, but another hurdle that was brought to the commission’s attention was a lack of funding.

“A lot of these organizations have their own projects that they’re working on and they’re short when it comes to the fundraising needed to complete some of these projects and we’ve heard a lot of organizations looking at that 2024-2025 vision fund opportunity to help close some of those gaps. We as a community need to have a concerted effort where we can prioritize those that are most important to those that are closest to completion,” Rodriguez said.

For funding, Rodriguez plans to help where he can by telling local organizations about different grants and opportunities and/or helping with the organization’s presentations for vision fund requests.

There are also benefits to the natural resources of the Black Hills too, promoting outdoor recreation.

“Communities like Sioux Falls wish they had the Black Hills and the outdoor recreation piece is going to be huge for this community as we continue to grow and develop with partners locally like Strider Bikes,” Rodriguez said. “There’s a ton of opportunities for us to expand on the outdoor recreation piece. People come from all over the world to participate in outdoor recreation here in Rapid City and in the area. So we just need to continue to expand on those opportunities as well.”

The importance of the job

Community leaders sat in meetings about ten years ago that discussed the idea of a sports commission, but it didn’t go far due to lack of funding. Rodriguez says that he’s been passionate about the position since those meetings happened.

“Through the assistance of trying to find the right vendors, communicating with the local sports organizations, I realized that I was passionate about this, not only because it’s something that I envisioned for a long time, but this is something that we can do to leave for our grandkids and our great grandkids,” he said. “If we do this the right way, we can set Rapid City’s youth up for the next 20 to 30 years with proper facilities, proper organization [and] proper support, where they can learn major life skills through sports and Rapid City.”

“I think that’s why the time is right. Right now, the community’s ready for this. I think ten years ago, the reason we didn’t get it done is because the time wasn’t right. Now everything’s coming together and we have a lot of support for where we’re trying to go. We’re going to ask the community for a lot of support financially and for influence to get some things done, but I think it’s best for Rapid City to plan the next 20 to 30 years and we want to assist with that.”

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News, Sports