‘Great interest’ as companies submit plans to expand South Dakota’s Corn Palace

The main objective of the expansion is to add more seating, as well as to renovate parts of the interior, which would open up more opportunities at the Corn Palace to host larger events such as tournaments. State. Expanding the city-owned facility, known as a premier event venue in the state, has been a goal shared by several city officials for some time.

“We all know how much people love to play and watch at Corn Palace, but we’re a little bit shy about the seating capacity we need to host these big sporting events like basketball and wrestling tournaments. ‘State,’ said Jeff Smith, who has served on Mitchell’s City Council for the past 15 years. “Mitchell is better positioned more towards the central part of the state, so that’s another advantage we have with the Corn Palace that attracts the big events that we missed.”

Although discussions about a possible extension of the facility have surfaced within city council in recent years, plans to do so have not materialized. During the recent council working session, the discussion once again emerged. But now it’s driven to action.

In early May, the city opened a month-long window for qualified architectural firms to submit Expression of Interest plans for the expansion and interior renovation. Companies must submit their expression of interest to the city by June 1. Then the plan will be reviewed by a new Corn Palace selection committee. Replacing the soft chair-back seats on the west side of the arena is another goal of the renovation plan.

“The gist of this plan is to see how can we get to the point of hosting major state sporting events and other larger events without having to expand the building’s footprint,” said the director of Corn Palace, Doug Greenway. “No one has ever come up with an idea or plan to expand the seats without expanding the building’s footprint to my knowledge. Maybe there are a few ways we could do this: retractable seats and bleachers, as well as demolishing the stage on the east side of the yard, as almost all great music performers have their own stage setup.

Improvements to the interior to attract larger-scale events to Mitchell would reignite a long-standing discussion in the community, dating back to the 2007 vote that sought to raise property taxes in the city to fund an event center of 7,000. 25 million places on highway 37. bypasses. This vote failed, with 69% of citizens voting against the plan.

Some of the specifications the committee is looking for in the Declaration of Interest are plans to add another basketball court, increasing the seating capacity to a minimum of 5,000 seats – which Greenway says is the “magic number.” For the facility to host state tournaments – and other stage options and seating capacities like retractable seats.

While expanding the building’s footprint isn’t exactly what city officials are looking to do, if the idea is economically feasible and has community support, Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson has declared that “all options are on the table”. If the idea of ​​expanding the building’s footprint came to fruition, Everson said it would likely be on the east side, where the locker rooms are located.

The Corn Palace Plaza.  (Matt Gade / Republic)

The Corn Palace Plaza. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Each qualified company that submits an expression of interest will have its plan evaluated by the committee. The scoring criteria have four categories worth a fixed amount of percentage points, which include the profile, qualifications and experience of the company worth 40%. Other categories in the criteria are past performance and experience which is worth 40%, project approach, methodology and timing of events, and familiarity, availability and compensation, which are both worth 10%.

“We’ve already had a number of architectural firms come in and are exploring the Corn Palace already, so we’ve seen great interest,” Greenway said.

Stimulate the local economy

Everson pointed to the significant economic impact that an expansion of the facility would have across the city as a major reason for supporting the idea.

As Corn Palace hosts major events every year in its current setup, ranging from basketball tournaments to concerts, Everson said the seating expansion would put Mitchell in contention to host high school track and field tournaments. ‘State that could bring over 4,000 to 5,000 people into the city. for a period of three days. Although hosting state sports tournaments at Corn Palace is a major goal, Everson said the expansion could result in larger events that Mitchell was unable to host due to the ability to host. ‘Home.

“This would significantly stimulate the local economy, for example by increasing the occupancy rate of hotels, increasing catering activities and local businesses in the city center and throughout the city. We’re not just talking about state tournaments, we’re talking about dart tournaments, camping shows and pool tournaments, ”Everson said, noting that most of these events last up to three days. “A lot of these big sports tournaments take place in February and March, when hotels are slow. It would help to have more head in bed at a time when it is needed. “

As of now, the facility has a maximum seating capacity of 3,500. Everson said adding another 1,500 seats would be a daunting task, but “worth pursuing”. Everson said the city hoped to receive a ballpark figure for the project with the declaration of interest, which he said cost the city nothing.

“There are so many benefits to investing in getting more seats and renovating the interior that it’s hard not to support such a plan,” Everson said. “The declaration of interest does not require any cost to the city, and we hope to get good cost estimates in the process.”

Funding opportunities

Any big city project has a price. To minimize the costs of the interior project, city leaders considered funding opportunities in the form of sponsorships and donors.

Corn Palace’s sponsorship deal with Daktronics, the Brookings-based company that installed the instrument panels and electronic displays inside the facility, was a major obstacle in moving forward with the plan. interior expansion.

The Daktronics contract stipulated that the city was to present all sponsorships to the Daktronics marketing team as part of the 10-year contractual agreement that recently ended in the fall after the city bought it out a year before. its intended end. Smith said the contract “held us back” with sponsorship opportunities.

“We now have control with all the sponsorships at the Palace, which will allow us to really seek out a lot more sponsors and sources of funding for the interior project. Doug (Greenway) has worked on new sponsorships before and has some great ideas, ”said Smith.

Some potential new sponsors Greenway has in mind are focused on agriculture, such as farm equipment companies and seed companies.

“I really want to try and bring more agricultural support back to Corn Palace because that’s where its story is rooted. With the end of the Daktronics contract, it’s up to us at Corn Palace to renew sponsors and gain new ones, and we are actively doing that, ”said Greenway.

Greenway added that it was looking to upgrade the north and south dashboards with high-definition video displays, which would be able to run the latest technology in video advertising.

Here is the scoreboard above center court.  (Chris Huber / Republic)

Here is the scoreboard above center court. (Chris Huber / Republic)

City council chairman Kevin McCardle, who was among the city leaders pushing the project forward, pitched the idea of ​​adding higher quality seats. McCardle said installing seating and suites along the edges of the walls would ideally face the basketball court in an elevated position along the west side of the court where the plush seats are now located.

McCardle pointed to the suites – which could serve as private and rentable seats for spectators (and would open the door to the sale of food and alcoholic beverages at certain games and sporting events) – as a potential way to help fund the interior expansion project. and provide the city-owned facility with the opportunity to reduce the annual Corn Palace deficit.

“It’s one way to help pay for this project. The Corn Palace has been operating in deficit for as long as I can remember, and this is a rare opportunity for a new stream of income to reduce the deficit, ”McCardle said.

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