Native Sun News: Rapid City civic center hopeful for new arena

The following story was written and reported by Joseph Budd, Native Sun News Correspondent. All content © Native Sun News.

Rapid City’s Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, located on the city’s north side, is currently the subject of a proposed expansion project. PHOTO COURTESY/VISITRAPIDCITY.COM

Rapid City civic center officials hopeful for new arena, but questions remain
By Joseph Budd
Native Sun News Correspondent

RAPID CITY –– As the news filters out about the newly proposed Rushmore Plaza Civic Center arena, some have speculated on what sort of effect having a new, 18,000-seat facility will have on Rapid City.

More importantly, what about how the proposed arena will impact the surrounding region, including reservations and the people who use this event center for a variety of purposes – from the Lakota Nation Invitational to local powwows to hosting meetings?

From the get-go, some people trumpet the benefits of such an ambitious plan, which has the ability to lure cultural events and concerts that normally would bypass the civic center’s current Don Barnett Arena. Likewise, there are those who look at the civic center as an evolving structure first put in place back in 1977 that has seen a number of additions ranging from simply extending the building to the east to the most recent extension of the ice rink.

And always at the forefront any Rushmore Plaza Civic Center extension is cost.

Cost has become a more prickly point as recently the civic center made news when its administrators chose to raise the nonprofit costs associated with rental of space. This action caused several local groups, like the Black Hills Symphony, to seek other locations to perform at.

Another associated expansion issue is time. For the last three decades, the civic center has served the city through thick and thin. From time to time, people have contemplated replacing the structure with a more up-to-date facility in an apparent effort to mimic the city of Sioux Falls.

The last two issues come down to the general population both in and around Rapid City. For residents of the city, the cost for an expansion venture would be from $125 million to $150 million. This amount would be paid through the city’s Vision Fund that is fed by sales tax proceeds. This fund, which usually is used for other civic improvements, would be, for the most part, drained for several years to pay off this project.

The other issue is the cost to the people who use the facility. As it stands right now, the costs associated with attending concerts, hockey games and cultural events are considered by some to be rather pricey. Looking at the civic center’s website, a single concert ticket costs $49.50.

Two years ago, it was mentioned that Lakota Nation Invitational organizers had expressed interest in moving the tournament, which is a large draw for Rapid City’s civic center, to a different location. Given all the events that happen at the civic center, many residents of the area wonder if there will be any increase in costs should the civic center expansion go through.

As it stands, fans of the LNI tournaments usually travel a good distance already to deal with expensive rooms, ticket costs, food costs and travel conditions in following their basketball athletes’ play with passion each winter. Sometimes those same teams make the journey several times, depending on schedules and playoffs, and even a variety of different events are held each year in conjunction with the tournament.

However, with every new idea comes some positive thoughts. The civic center hosted several national tournaments for Native Americans that are now held yearly on the Fort Hall Reservation in southeastern Idaho, home to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Could Rapid City host that tournament once again?

Also, to the south, the Native American Basketball Invitational hosts a yearly tournament, which is a huge draw for the people in Arizona. Could South Dakota’s tribes unite with some local help to promote their own large-scale tournament? Lastly, with seating for 15,000-20,000 people, a large gathering of Native nations could potentially take place in an arena of this size.

(Contact Joseph Budd at

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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