2014 - Proposed Design and Department of Justice
In 2014, several public meetings were held to discuss design decisions on the Civic Center expansion. Architects shared three plans, settling on the "Blue" plan. In this plan, a new arena would be built to the west of the Barnett Arena. Once the new arena is complete, the Barnett Arena would be renovated, fixing the ADA and building code violations. Once complete, the Don Barnett Arena and the new arena could be used separately, or be combined into one large arena.
Also in 2014, city staff interacted with members of the Department of Justice regarding the ADA violations. An agreement was signed giving the city 30 months to fix the violations.
AECOM was hired to create a feasibility study on the building of the Civic Center expansion. The study looked at the cost of building, as well as the revenue potential of the new facility. The study also evaluated the potential for revenue losses that might result if the new arena is not built and events bypass the Rapid City Civic Center in favor of or larger, more modern facilities like the Fargodome, for example.
- Brad Estes - RC Council
- Charity Doyle - RC Council
- Rod Johnson - RC Public Works
- Terry Wolterstorff - RC Public Works
- Mike Kenton - RC Area Schools
- John Herr - RPCC Board Member
- Jennifer Landguth - RPCC Board Member
- Brian Maliske - Former RPCC General Manager
The committee has been tasked with reviewing the submitted Request for Proposals for the expansion project. The Civic Center Future Committee partnered with area students to bring in a youth opinion. Six students met with CCFC members, learned the issues, and presented to classes at their school. A survey was created and results gathered based on informed versus uninformed students.
Council Approval and Referendum
After months of discussion and public meetings, the Civic Center expansion came to a council vote on December 1, 2014. Members of the public and some council members objected to the measure to approve spending $180 million on the expansion. Some felt that the public should have a vote on it and urged the council to consider an initiated measure. The response was that the council could not run an initiated measure, and no one had stepped forward to do so. The measure passed 7-3.
An effort to hold a referendum on the measure started immediately. Enough signatures were gathered to force a special election on March 10, 2015, where the measure was voted down. Mayor Sam Kooiker was defeated by challenger Steve Allender in the municipal election.
Civic Center Resolution Task Force
After becoming mayor, Allender took time to familiarize himself with the issue. In February 2016, he appointed the Civic Center Resolution Task Force: (information provided by the Rapid City Journal):
- Rick Kahler, financial planner
- Everett Hoyt, former COO and board member at Black Hills Corp.
- David Ploof, business teacher at Rapid City Central High School
- Kevin Andreson, chief operating officer of a $450 million food-ingredient company
- Matthew Huether, financial consultant with Thrivent Financial
- Mark Joneson, owner of Financial Consultants in Rapid City
- Dr. John Spangler, served as pediatric cardiologist at Black Hills Pediatrics, former professor of pediatrics at University of South Dakota School of Medicine
- Rodney Pettigrew, business owner and operator
- Tim Raben, executive with the Hartford Insurance Group
- Robert "Bob" Weyrich, agriculture development specialist for the state
In choosing members for the task force, Mayor Allender stated that he searched for candidates without a vested interest in the Civic Center and who had not taken sides in the previous discussion. In late April 2016, they called for a new study of the ADA issues in the Barnett Arena.
Revise or Replace?
Following the conclusion of the Civic Center Resolution Task Force, Mayor Allender reviewed its reports. In summer of 2017, he started holding public presentations laying out two plans for the Civic Center. The first plan would cover bringing the Barnett Arena up to code by fixing outstanding ADA issues. The cost would be around $25 million. The second plan would leave the Barnett Arena alone and build a new facility, at a cost of approximately $130 million—or nearly 2/3 of the cost of estimated under Mayor Kooiker's proposal. Allender has stated that constructing a new arena is his preference and has used the public presentations to explain and convince people that the changes are needed. One major reason, also cited under the arena expansion, is that the Barnett Arena is not capable of holding many touring music shows. Although it opened with a performance of Elvis Presley in 1977, Elvis only brought a single truck, while a modern show may have a dozen. The Barnett Arena has a height of 53 feet, far short of the expected 75 to 80 feet required by a modern show to display sponsor banners or other decorations. A new facility would allow these acts to perform in Rapid City, drawing in crowds and sales tax dollars.
With either plan, costs would be paid from the Vision Fund. Currently, $18 million has been set aside for the work. Total costs and financing for a new building would come in around $180 million over 30 years. The $6 million in annual costs represents half of the Vision Fund each year. The Barnett Arena would remain open during construction to continue hosting events such as the Black Hills Stock Show and the Lakota Nation Invitational.
On February 26, 2018 the Rapid City Council voted to move forward with a plan to construct a new arena instead of updating the existing Barnett Arena. The decision was made on a 9-1 vote. The council's support via resolution supports up to $110 million in sales tax revenue bonds and lease certificates to fund construction of the new arena. Currently, the city has approximately $25 million in reserve for an initial payment toward construction.
Shortly after the city council issued a decision regarding the arena, a citizen group began collecting signatures to refer the issue to Rapid City voters. The Rapid City finance office verified 2,376 signatures in support of referring the issue to a public vote. Five percent, or 2,095 votes, were required to place the issue on the ballot. At a Rapid City Council meeting on March 26th, the council voted to approve the setting of the special election on June 5, 2018. Several other elections at the local, state and federal elections are also slated for June 5. A "yes" vote on the June 5 ballot will allow the city to begin plans for building a new arena, while a "no" vote greenlights rehabilitation efforts at the Barnett Arena.
Documents & Links
- ADA Assessment 2004
- ADA Settlement Agreement
- 2012 Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Economic and Fiscal Impact Analysis - Comparison of Two Future Scenarios
- 2014 Feasibility Study for the Proposed Blue Concept at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center
- 2018 New Arena Feasibility Study
- Media coverage and public documents related to the Civic Center are available in the Black Hills Knowledge Network's Civic Center news archive.