The City of Sioux Falls held a press conference on October 23rd announcing the creation of the Sioux Falls Sports and Entertainment District.
This new district runs south of I-90 to Third Street and East of I-29 to Minnesota Ave. It encompasses a huge area. What is in this huge tract of land that the city plans to market and develop as the Sports and Entertainment District? There can be no surprise that the Denny Sanford Premier Center, or Sanford Place as the three buildings (including Sioux Falls Convention Center and Sioux Falls Arena) are called, and the Sanford Sports complex are the real drivers in this new district.
These facilities must drive the economic development to make this all work. The Denny Sanford Premier Center is the 12,000 seat multi-purpose events center scheduled to open in 2014. The Sanford Sports Complex is a 162 acre complex home to Sioux Falls Junior Football League, Sioux Falls Tennis, Dakota Alliance Soccer Club and the Sanford Field House.
Sources tell me that the Sanford Sports Complex project is driving economic development already. Frankly, I have more confidence in the Sanford organization economic development planning process than I do with what is coming out of the city's economic development office. This sports complex is going to be an exciting venture for Sioux Falls and will surely spur economic activity all on it's own. But it too needs sustainable "rooftops," hotels and restaurants and retail to succeed in driving activity out there in addition to the sports complex activities. That area probably has more of chance of succeeding in economic development than the Russell Street corridor.
Development in the Northwest quadrant of the city has been identified, studied and planned since 2001 when city planners proposed growth and future infrastructure needs for this area. It is kind of humorous that the city is now announcing this new district as if this is a brand new idea. The Northwest quadrant is humming along. What isn't humming along is that whole area on Russell Ave where the new Denny Sanford Premier Center is being built.
There lies the economic challenge. The plan talks about TIFs and hotel incentives needed to kick start development. The plan states that in order to support night time activity in this area there will need to be a significant number of "rooftops." Restaurants need residents. There is a need for retail to bring in activity to the area. You need corporate/office/education for daytime activity. The West Sioux neighborhood doesn't support the kind of significant number of "rooftops" to generate the kind of economic activity to bring life to this area. The Sioux Falls Convention Center didn't generate economic development in this corridor although citizens were told it would do just that if it were built.
The city planning office and the city economic development office is leading the charge to facilitate development in this new district. They hope to bring property owners and developers together, identify development resources and potential and maximize economic development opportunities resulting from significant public and private investments. Lofty goals that I hope the City Council follows closely to see what progress they are making towards their goals.
It is nice to create this big huge district so the city can take credit for already planned development and growth in the Northwest quadrant and piggy back off Sanford's economic development plans for their complex. The real test will be how the city can promote economic development in an area that has lacked oxygen for decades and now must produce economic development without a significant number of "rooftops" to support real economic activity in the Russell Street corridor.
I have more confidence in the Minnehaha County Economic Development Association, the Governor's Office of Economic Development and the Sioux Falls Development Foundation to create economic development in this city than the guy who used the word "excited" 10 times in the last 60 seconds during his media presentation on the creation of the Sports and Entertainment District.
The city council should ask for periodic updates on this district and the economic development achievements created by the economic development office of the Community Development department. Otherwise, this plan is just another piece of fluff to be filed away somewhere.