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May 02, 2011 09:27 PM

Mayor Backs Arena Site But Studies Questioned

Sioux Falls, SD

Mayor Mike Huether is recommending that a new events center be built next to the arena and convention center.
It comes a week after several firms hired by the city also said that site would give Sioux Falls the biggest bang for it's events center buck. 

For the last several months city-hired consultants have studied the infrastructure needs, logisitics and economic impact of an events center at the arena site versus a downtown site, and Monday the mayor sided with the results of those studies and defended the firms.

Huether says he has no doubts that an events center should be built at the arena.

"What is the most prudent and fiscally responsible location? I believe it's the arena-convention center site," Huether told the council. "What is the best business decision for our city? I believe it's the arena-convention center site."

The economic impact study showed an events center would generate $13 million more at the arena versus a downtown site. Huether says that's because the new facility can take advantage of the existing convention center.

"Flat-floor space is critical to the ultimate economic return of a new events center," Huether said.

But, the Build It Downtown group is questioning how AECOM, the consulting firm that did the economic study, got its numbers.

They want to know how the firm determined there would be 34 flat floor events at the arena and only seven downtown. They're also questioning the 30 banquets or meetings at the arena site versus only eleven if the building was downtown.

"Where are we getting those shows? Where are we getting those conventions? If we're not going to get them, if those are just pie in the sky numbers, we should really look at doing this differently," Steve Hildebrand with Build It Downtown said.

But, the mayor says the firm is well-respected.

"All of these firms, this is not their first rodeo. We selected the best firms in the nation to work on this for us. Their reputations were on the line," Huether said.

"There's grand assumptions, big numbers put in this study; $44 million of economic impact if we attach this to the convention center? We've asked some very specific questions because there's no substance in the study. It's just numbers," Hildebrand said.

And as they search for those answers the mayor is determined to move forward with a new events center at the arena. 

"We need to do what's right for Sioux Falls, and yes South Dakota, to move this project forward. It's the only way we will capture this opportunity that has truly evaded us for years," Huether said.

The council will now take some time to consider the reports and the mayor's recommendation before they make their decision about putting the events center on the ballot.

Monday night, they did approve $65,000 to hire a firm to study the naming rights of an events center and other facilities in town.

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