Those in favor of building an events center in downtown Sioux Falls question a report favoring the Arena and Convention Center site.
Build It Downtown members are skeptical of the Events Center site comparison survey. However, they're not blaming the companies that did the work, but rather Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether.
"You know the mayor had a half a million dollars to go hire his consultants to come up with these studies. He's always wanted this to be built at the Arena. So of course, those studies are going to show an advantage for the Arena, and that didn't surprise us," Steve Hildebrand, president of Build It Downtown, said.
Members of the Build It Downtown campaign suggest the report favors the arena site because that's what information the mayor and his team provided.
"It comes down to the information that's provided to the people doing the surveys. Some of the information in there is hard to believe, quite frankly," Mark Millage, also with Build It Downtown, said.
Millage and Hildebrand believe parking is the key issue separating the two sites. They say the consultants either didn't get, or didn't use, all of the information.
“One of the things not being acknowledged is parking. There's funding to replace the River Ramp downtown. Not only was the River Ramp not included in the parking study, but the replacement ramp wasn't included either,” Millage said.
Built It Downtown says this report research also promotes building Event Centers where visitors can eat, drink and shop.
“Every comparable city in the country, virtually every one of them built it in their downtown and that's for a reason. It's not just the event that people go to. It's what they do before hand and after,” Hildebrand said.
“AECOM points out there hasn't been any development in the existing Convention Center location and it's not projecting any either,” Millage said.
With the report spotlighting the lack of development near the Convention Center site, Millage says a downtown site is the only logical option.
"It's clear in that study that you're going to see that impact in the millions and millions of dollars every year, and those millions of dollars pumped into our economy are millions less that are placed on the burden of the property taxpayer," Millage said.
Huether says he’ll speak on camera once he’s had an opportunity to review the report himself.
However, he did give us a written statement that said: "My goal is to thoroughly review the reports, dig even deeper if needed and come back next week to the city council and the citizens of Sioux Falls with my thoughts and next steps.”