Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Ongoing Saga called Event Center

I went to the the Information Meeting on Monday, March 21st at Carnegie Town Hall. It was the first time I actually went to hear the Event Center Update Report in person. I usually just catch it online. The place was pretty much full of people which was good to see. People actively participating in their city government. I just wish people would get out and vote at city elections, but I digress.

The important people of the Event Center Update are the consultants. No doubt about it. They did a nice job. Why then do we have to start every update session with inane bullet points and comments that sound like a sermon or lecture on how it takes time, we still won't all agree, communication strengthens confidence, the city council is doing their part and providing leadership, the insatiable demand for more, we need to remain professional and respectful, we are continually learning and we are getting smarter, Sioux Falls, bla, bla, bla.

I just wish the mayor would get up and introduce the consultants and let them give their progress report. I don't think I am the only one who is tired of his meaningless introduction and endings which essentially provides nothing more than the sound of his own voice with no facts and meaningful information related to the progress of the project.

The Site Evaluation Criteria gave Cherapa the nod as the best downtown site with two problem areas: available parking and the ability to share amenities and space. The consultant looked at sites all over town including the mall area. Cherapa and Arena sites are still the best two sites after all the studies that have been completed over the years. So, I guess the people that still want the Event Center out by the interstate or out at the mall need to come to terms that those sites aren't viable for an Event Center.

The consultant said the traffic issues related to the Cherapa site have been laid to rest by the consultant. They do not believe there are traffic issues for the downtown location. All this talk about retailers wanting it downtown so they can make money is a bunch of bunk. The retailers are not the drivers of the downtown location, they are supporters of the downtown location. Sure they will benefit from the Event Center being downtown. At least there are shops and restaurants downtown in which to frequent. There is nothing out at the Arena/Convention Center. This cockimamy idea of driving in and driving out in 15 minutes is unrealistic and finally, we hear that traffic is not an issue with a downtown site.

What else did I hear at the meeting?  Well, I heard that the building, whether built at Cherapa or the Arena/Convention Center, will be comparable. The Convention Center provides additional floor space but otherwise the building built on either site would be pretty similar.  Parking will be the difference in identifying the best site for the Event Center.

Both sites require adding additional parking. Walking 5 blocks in the winter is not a positive for either site. Unfriendly walks at both sites. The Cherapa site needs 800 to 1200 spaces and the railroad tracks are a problem. The Arena/Convention Center site needs to add parking spaces as well in order to make it work. Options there are taking green space (McCart Park), maybe Legion building, buying houses, etc. in order to build additional surface parking. It seemed to me that the consultants felt the options to add parking spaces at the Arena/Convention Center were easier to solve than at Cherapa. Those darn railroad tracks.

The consultant said we need the right amount of parking on the first day it opens. Well, that just about sums up the decision on parking to me. Those darn railroad tracks. Sounds like a done deal to me.

What would happen if a major concert sold out to capacity at the Arena/Convention Center site and there were other events going on out there? I was told the consultant said it would max out parking and they would have to limit other events. That doesn't quite make sense to me. Most sporting events, conventions, etc., are booked in advance. Concerts usually get booked based on tour dates. Sometimes with not a lot of lead time. So if they get an opportunity to book a big concert and there are already events scheduled at the Arena or Convention Center are those other events going to get bumped because it would create a parking problem?

Everything you read about Event Centers is that each one has a major anchor. Who is the major anchor for our Event Center? When asked, the consultant said, the main anchor is basketball, football, hockey,  but no, they haven't talked to any of the sports teams yet. Why not? Will they come to the event center or will they stay at the Arena? When will those discussions take place? Will it happen before the public vote? Will the answers be included in the final report presented in April? If these sports teams go the Event Center, who is going to use the Arena?

Consultant says that construction costs are escalating and there needs to be continued momentum to keep the focus on a November vote. The longer this goes on, the more millions it will cost to build the Event Center. Well, we all know that this has been a long process, and the more we talk and no action the more it is going to cost. Still, rushing to a decision without all the information is not the answer either. I hate it when government moves forward on a project without thinking through all aspects. That usually costs more money too. You usually miss something big or you do something on the cheap because you didn't plan the costs right. So all you people out there who keep asking questions and slowing down the process just stop it. You are costing the project money. I guess we should just be quiet and accept what we are told by the mayor and his team, no questions asked.

Two big things are going to happen on April 18th: the economic and develoment analsis will be completed and the city will present the final report.

Councilors asked what next after that and what would the ballot look like? I had a hard time following the mayor on that answer. First I thought he said the Council would decide, then he said if they couldn't decide he would decide. I am not sure who is going to finally decide. Who knows what the ballot will look like, we just know there will be ballot in November.

And I am really interested in hearing what those short-term "nice to haves" are that conflict with longer term, more expensive needs of Sioux Falls. He says,"It is unrealistic to build a new events center for Sioux Falls without sacrifing somewhere else." What exactly are we going to give up in order to complete the mayor's vision for an event center? I think that needs to be brought out in the open, quantified, listed out, whatever so we know exactly what we are giving up to get this vision of his completed. I look forward to hearing that at the final report the week of April 18th.

I am still waiting for the financing plan. Saying the city should allocate the $3.8 million in unobligated funds from the CIP as a downpayment to the $15 million cash component of the financing plan seems like a pebble in a huge lake to me. A $100 million project and we talking about a $3.8 million downpayment at this late stage. I am thinking we need something more substantial that that little bit of information.  We've got a long way to go, good folks of Sioux Falls, to see a finance package before the November vote.

As the mayor pointed out in his slides:
  •  I know it seems slow, but hang in there!
  • Thank you for your time.
  • Good things to come, Sioux Falls! 


  1. I only wish a summary like this could be in the Argus instead of piecemeal reports. Thank you!

  2. I am guessing the sacrifices and "nice to have's" that he intends to get rid of are employee cost of living raises, benefits, and pensions. I believe that is the corporate way of his former employer....make a ton of money, pay our executives a ton of money and pay our employees very poorly.

  3. Unfortunately, the sematics of the site location is becoming the shiny object while behind the curtain you have manipulation of data at the highest levels of City Hall.

  4. Just where is the money for this project? 3.8 million.......that's a long way from 100 million?

  5. It was interesting listening to the Mayor's dodging when Jamison tried to get him to answer to the Mayor's own bullet points of "nice to haves"that would have to be cut in order to fund this project. The mayor never did give an answer as to what these are. If he is going to mention this type of thing in his presentation, then he better be prepared to be upfront with just what exactly is going to be sacrificed for his "little" project.

  6. The citizens of SF have to stay on top of this issue and make a decision after weighing all of the fact and not just listen to what the mayor tells them. He is going to tell us anything we want to hear so he can push this project through so it can be his legacy. He is going to try to move on to something bigger. Massive ego!!!!

  7. I wish you wrote this blog when I worked in SF. Great information. I hope there's at least one reporter using you as a source.

  8. This really gives me encouragement that our city officials have it all under control. After all that is why I voted for My Man MIke. I will not accept an arena location simply because what I have seen and believe happens in cities like Omaha and Des Moines with their downtown locations.

  9. Someone should ask the Mayor why we haven't started negotiating with the railroad on the track relocation. The hitch with the Federal money is the City has to own the land at the end of the track removal project. Land that would fit 1200 spots within 3 blocks of Cherapa and wouldn't require ripping out newly constructed ball diamonds. Are we sandbagging this process and if so, how long before we risk losing the remaining $35 million? (Down from the original $40 million)

  10. If the Vote were today, would not pass. The Pavilion was very close during Good Times. This is a Loser, too much money for people to swallow right now. People aren't feeling that good about things. He will have to pull a rabbit out of the Hat.

  11. A $100 million project and we talking about a $3.8 million downpayment at this late stage.


    That is the first big lie that needs to be dismissed. This is not going to be a $100,0000,000 project. Try north of $200,000,000. Lincolns Haymarket Arena costs $11,000 a seat. That would put ours at $132,000,000. Lincoln was upfront with it's citizens about traffic congestion and parking. So they tacked on an additional $65,000,000 to address just those two issues. We hide those issues, and instead bicker about where, and completely neglect how much and who is going to pay for it. BOTH sides are equally guilty in that one.

    Interesting sidenote. According to CSL International,approximately 50% of the touring events at the 18,300-seat Qwest Center in Omaha have had fewer than 5,000 attendees since it opened. Keep in mind Omaha has an MSA close to 900,000, and 40 miles away, Lincoln has an MSA of 300,000.

    Do we need an Event Center in these economic times? Don't think so. We can't come close to filling what we have.

    Poly Amalo

  12. How can construction costs be going up every year when the mayor himself said that the reason city employees were not getting any cost of living increases was because the " cost of living has actually gone down the last two years in South Dakota".