- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 11, 2015

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - Rapid City residents have rejected a proposed $180 million expansion of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, and attention will now turn toward making the facility’s arena compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Unofficial returns from Tuesday’s election showed 61 percent of the 12,902 voters were against the proposal that would have been the costliest project in city history.

“The people have spoken,” Mayor Sam Kooiker said.

The project would have replaced the facility’s 9,400-seat arena with one that could seat up to 19,000 people. The City Council approved the expansion in December, but an opposition group submitted petitions to force the public vote.

Opponents including five former mayors questioned whether the project that ultimately could cost $420 million over 30 years with interest would be a wise investment.

Supporters of the proposal considered it preferable to spending money to upgrade the existing facility. Studies have estimated it will cost up to $38 million to make it accessible to the handicapped, and $73 million to do that and also address building code violations.

“There is no plan B,” City Councilman Ritchie Nordstrom told the Rapid City Journal. “Now we’ll have to go back and figure out a plan B. We have to do the ADA (compliance projects). We have to do that, and how we’re going to do that, that has to all be worked out.”

Rapid City and the federal government earlier this month announced agreement on a plan to make the Civic Center ADA-compliant within 2 ½ years.

“I think our first responsibility is to live up to the agreement with the Department of Justice,” Civic Center board chairman Jeff Bailie told the Journal.

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