Wednesday, July 6, 2011

There's a New Group In Town With a Similar Name

Today, Build It Now SiouxFalls held their first press conference to announce a grassroots campaign to convince voters to support building an event center at the Arena/Convention Center location. The organization's objective is to specifically get the vote out this November.

The co-chairs of this grassroots organization are:

Alan Amdahl
President of the Home Builders Association of the Sioux Empire
Owner of Amdahl Construction

Nicki Ellerbroek
Owner of McNally’s Traditional Irish Pub

Dr. Dave Kapaska, Regional President
Avera McKennan Hospital

Tom Kelley
President of Gage Brothers Concrete

Dr. Charles Pat O’Brien, President – Sanford USD Medical Center
Sanford Health

Mike Sullivan
Executive Director of the Sioux Falls Sports Authority

It is an impressive group of co-chairs, especially the representatives from the two health systems in town. The press conference was lead by Mike Sullivan who stated it would be run like a political campaign. He stated he had just flown in from Florida last night.

Sullivan said they were not affiliated with the mayor or city council. Yet, I am told Rolfing, Entenman (standing with a Build It Now Sioux Falls sign) and the mayor all stood in the back smiling and happy.

Sullivan, when asked by the media to name the top 3 benefits of "building it now" at the arena/convention site,  stated the top reason was the economic impact on Sioux Falls and that Sioux Falls needed to keep up with other cities in the region. Kelley from Gage Brothers had to actually fill in the third benefit for him which was to build it for the younger generation.

All co-chairs spoke and all had a central theme - those darn pesky tail lights going down the interstate to Sioux City or Omaha or up the interstate to Fargo. Sullivan said if we build a quality place, get quality events, then they will be there. He stated Sioux Falls has always been the leader of South Dakota; that he wasn't just talking about Sioux Falls but talking about all of South Dakota.

He said the economic boom is going to come to Sioux Falls. People are going to spend the night here, go to restaurants, go to the bars, gas stations and stop at convenience stores. Well, I submit to you that the visitors from outside Sioux Falls, not the ones who will drive in and drive out, but the ones who might just stay, will have to travel a bit to get to some of those amenities. Let's not forget that the mayor has said that he is building it for the 60% who are from out of town - the very people who want to drive in and drive out easily. Maybe it should be titled The In and Out Event Center.

The last time I read the AECOM Economic Report, the economic boom at the Arena/Convention Center location was dismal in comparison to the economic boom of the Downtown Cherapa Site. But hey, why confuse anyone with the facts, right?

It's all about building it fast! Sullivan said so - so did Amdahl and Kelley. Amdahl and Kelley rang the alarm bell on the increasing construction costs if we don't get this done fast. Sullivan introduced Alan Amdahl as Adam Amdahl which Mr. Amdahl had to correct when he got to the podium. Here we have a seeminly close knit group who didn't really seem to be working as a cohesive group at this their first press conference. Also, it might help if the co-chairs knew the name of their own group. It's not Build It Sioux's Build it Now Sioux Falls. 

Amdahl stated that it is the opportune time to build the event center because the interest money is cheap and affordable. He stated we need to vote now, not in April 2012 or November 2012.  Material costs are going up 6% per year and over 5 years from now costs will go up $30 million. He said we need to push for a November 2011 election and build it as soon as possible.

Kelley says the city is not sacrificing anything. He reiterated the increasing construction costs as the reason to vote now and build quickly. He said all boats rise in a high tide. He seemed to be the finance guy of the co-chairs. He said they will get the true facts out.

Maybe, they should start with their website since the website's Project Funding section does not match the mayor's financial presentation for building the event center presented to the city council:

  • The website states the City will provide the down payment. No, the fact is the City intends to bond the entire construction cost of the project. 
  • The site says private funding will also be raised, through naming rights, sponsorships and donations. That is actually the plan if they hire Superlative or some other sales/marketing group.
  • The site says the City of Sioux Falls estimates this to be between 15 and 25 percent. Well, that estimate pertained to the mayor's originial funding idea which was going to be used for the down payment. Now the naming rights, sponsorships and donations will be used to fund the annual operating costs of the event center so as not to put a subsidy drain on the city's future operating budget.
Sandford USD Medical Center's Dr. O'Brien stated that Sandford Health brings in hundreds of people to their facilities and they tell people what a wonderful community Sioux Falls is and what the city has to offer. Yes, both medical facilities are ambassadors in the community and we have much to be proud of when it comes to both Sandford Health and Avera McKennan. But really, these people who come to Sioux Falls through the hospitals/clinics are here because they have a loved one who is seriously ill. Sure they may fill up the hotels around town, but just how much shopping, event going and bar hopping are these people really doing. I can tell you that when my mother was being treated for cancer in Minneapolis, my family members spent every waking moment at the hospital with her to finally drop in bed at night and get up and sit by her side again the next day. Bar hopping, going to restaurants and going to events were the last thing on our minds.

Nicki Ellerbroek basically said what the others said about building it now, what an economic boom to the community, etc. etc. etc. She did admit she was eight miles away from the Arena/Convention Center. I am wondering how all those out of towners are going to find her bar way out on the southeast side of town at 69th and Western. We did learn, however, that her Irish Pub was Sullivan's favorite place when he was in town.

I looked at the list of business supporters to date on the organization's website . A lot of the businesses listed are owned by one person. I suppose listing the businesses separately makes it look like the business supporters are bigger than what it actually represents. They've got Sanford and Avera, but other big name and family owned businesses in this community are missing.

To be fair, it is the beginning of the grassroots campaign to get it built in a hurry. What I would really like to see is a clear sign of support by these co-chairs and their businesses to pony up some significant part of the $26.2 -$48.3 million related to the Event Center title sponsorship, premium sponsorships and luxury suites based on a 20 year cycle.

Then maybe their grass roots support of getting out the voters and building it in a hurry at an area that AECOM even said was beat economically by the Cherapa site might help me understand their position to push to build in an area that has no successful economic past.

Isn't it funny too, that they couldn't come up with a more original name for their grass roots campaign. Build It Now Sioux Falls sounds a lot like Build it Downtown. But hey, let's not confuse the voters, it's all about getting the facts out and getting it done in a big hurry. 


  1. J&L Harley Davidson is listed as one of the business supporters of this group. Isn't this a conflict of interest for Councilor Entenman who is an owner of this business? Cozy isn't it.

  2. Time for a new campaign? Something like "Build it at The Right Time, at The Right Place"

  3. Nikki's dad owns a business that's a block south of the site. Is that where we will see McNally's North?

  4. Jennifer,

    Why do you keep lying about the AECOM report and economic impact? The study clearly stated the economic impact at the Arena/CC site is $44M annually versus $29M downtown. The only single category that downtown "beat" the Arena/CC site is in commercial development, and that's really misleading when you consider that AECOM stated that inevitable downtown commercial development would only be sped up by a new events center, not created where it wouldn't happen on its own anyway.

    I know you weren't in the city finance department, but any 8th grader can read the AECOM report and understand it, why can't you? Or do you mislead your readers intentionally?

  5. I see City Hall is at it again.

  6. Simply genius, Jen! We get the most popular burger franchise on the west coast to buy naming rights to the new EC and name it the "In-N-Out Center"!!!

  7. So let's see if I got this right, we have the guy who ran the Anti-smoking campaign with Smith now in charge of selling the Mayor's plan to the voters.

    I see several bars (many with the same ownership) as supporters, are we seeing a little payback for a law that's crippled the bar/casino industry across the State and taken several of their competitors out?

  8. At 9:05am.....heaven forbid a dissenting voice for debate purposes or the facts actually get stated....keep drinking the kool-aid, moron.

  9. Take a look at "Plan B" in this same area. It makes a lot of sense.

  10. People who resort to name calling and insulting others whether it is here or in the newspaper have no credibility.

  11. Mike Sullivan: "This group has no affiliation with the city."

    Mike Huether: "This is a prime example of a private-public partnership at work."

    Which is it? Wow.

  12. Way to catch that, @2:29 PM. Just an absolute mess of a plan that the Mayor has pushed on us, and even more of a mess with this miniscule support group for the "Mayor's" plan.

  13. I wonder why Bender Commercial Real Estate is not on the business supporter list of Build It Now Sioux Falls. I heard he was instrumental in getting this new organization off the ground and is working tirelessly to promote the Mayor's plan. Maybe he should plop some private money down to show his private partnership efforts with the Mayor.

  14. Gotta admit it there, Jennifer - the "In-and-Out Center" title gave me a bout of middle school-ish giggles. If you will pardon the crudeness, it's the image of our shiny new EC as a $100+ million dollar trollop in a low-rent part of town taking the rubes just in from the farm for a spin at $50 a head...well, it would just be too damn funny if it weren't so sad.