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January 18, 2013 10:00 PM

The Arena’s Next Act

Sioux Falls, SD

A $115 million construction project is changing the landscape of northwest Sioux Falls.  Crews continue to advance work on the new Denny Sanford PREMIER Center.  But, when the events center doors open in 2014, that doesn't mean the doors will close on the current Sioux Falls Arena.

If work continues on pace, the foundation for the new venue will be finished by the end of this month.  Not far away from the construction sits the current Sioux Falls Arena, which is buzzing with activity of its own.

"Right now, with the three tenants and everything else going on, we do about 140 to 150 event days a year.  For any market our size, that's an extremely busy building," Sioux Falls Arena General Manager Terry Torkildson said.

But when the doors open on the Denny Sanford Premier Center, the Sioux Falls Stampede will take hockey games to the new ice.  The Sioux Falls Storm football games will also call the events center home.  Skyforce basketball games will move to the Sanford Pentagon.  Does that leave the Arena empty?  General Manager Terry Torkildson says it's quite the opposite.

"We're already booking a lot of trade shows, flat show type things.  Say, like the Home Show, they'd like to expand.  So this is space for them to expand into.  It is giving us the opportunity to bid on larger scale conventions for the convention center because this can be used for convention space or general session space or things like that," Torkildson said.

Over the years, the Sioux Falls Arena has been one of the largest concert venues for the city. Major shows will likely play at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in the future, but Torkildson says the Arena will remain a destination for smaller shows. He also says some of the current sell out events don't plan to move down the hallway.

“People like the Shrine Circus, they want to stay in here.  It fits them.  It is the building they're used to. There's the historic aspect to it," Torkildson said.

The Arena is more than 50 years old.  While the city paid off the original $1 million price tag long ago, it has been updated multiple times.  While new floors and amenities were moved in, the original floor plan never changed.

“A big part of our expenses are labor, just because everything is so labor-intense because this building is not designed to do what we do in it," Torkildson said.

And when the new events center opens it will open a new flexibility for the Sioux Falls Arena and could attract other tournaments to the complex.

“Maybe there's a rotation there with the basketball tournaments, you have both the boys and the girls at the same venue so you don't have parents one week go one place and the next travel across the state," Torkildson said.

Torkildson says management at the Arena and city officials will evaluate the current layout of the Arena a year or two after the new PREMIER Center opens.  Before that, he doesn't expect many layout changes.  As for the building, he says it is structurally sound and will likely remain part of the landscape for years to come.

“It is not like the building is going to just shut down.  We're going to do everything we can to keep it as busy as possible," Torkildson said.

The Arena's management also hopes some former tenants can return when the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center opens.  That includes the Roller Dolls.  The team only called the Arena home for one season because of the building's busy schedule.

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