- Associated Press - Monday, December 1, 2014

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - An independent consultant is questioning whether an expanded Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City would draw the type of concerts identified in a feasibility study.

The study by Los Angeles-based AECOM said the proposed $180 million, 300,000-square-foot arena could pursue such entertainers as Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake. It said the arena would be supported by a metro population of 145,000, which would include residents of Pennington, Meade and Lawrence counties.

But that’s being questioned by Association for Concert Industry Education President Richard Barnet.

“I just would be skeptical of the population. Can you get about 10 percent of the population to a concert?” Barnet told the Rapid City Journal (https://bit.ly/1A7gbMJ ). “That’s a big chunk of your population base, and if you’re going to do several concerts a year, that is a whole bunch.”

He added that Rapid City would also need at least one news sports team to support the arena.

But Craig Baltzer, the civic center’s general manager, said concerts won’t be the only events that the proposed center would seek. The planned multi-use arena could help book other events, such as the Lakota Nation Invitational basketball tournament or the Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo. Other smaller-scale events, which the existing 37-year-old Don Barnett Arena struggles to host, could also be hosted.

“It’s not just about the big concerts,” he said. “And I think that is a misnomer out there, that ‘Oh, you’re going to build a place that’s going to have 15,000 to 18,000 seats, so you really expect to get concerts of 18,000 seats?”

Over the past two years, the city has paid for several studies on whether to replace the old arena, which needs almost $70 million in facility upgrades.

The Civic Center Board of Directors approved a new arena rather than spending the $70 million and still having an outdated facility. A city Legal and Finance Committee last week approved issuing up to $180 million in bonds to pay for the project.

The City Council is deciding whether to approve financing for the arena project.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, https://www.rapidcityjournal.com


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