MITCHELL, S.D. (KELO) — Big changes might be coming inside the World’s Only Corn Palace.
In the last decade, the tourist attraction has had major renovations done on the exterior of the building, including new domes, new lights, larger murals, mural lights and an outdoor plaza added to the north side. Now, officials are turning their attention to the interior of the building.
Specifically, Corn Palace director Doug Greenway said the building is seeking ways to “increase seating and flooring within the current footprint.”
“A number of events require sheer floor space for exhibits, vendor shows. That would require changing the style of seating in the Corn Palace,” said Greenway, who took over as the Corn Palace director in November 2019.
City officials have requested statements of interests from architectural engineering firms. Those statements of interests will be due by June 1 and a Corn Palace selection committee will be formed to review and rank the proposals, Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson said.
“We need to have some information to make good, well-informed decisions,” Everson said. “The Corn Palace makes Mitchell what it is. We are really in the preliminary process of this. Nothing is set in stone, nothing is set in concrete.”
After a few statements of interest are picked, a few design firms will come for interviews with city officials and the city council. A finalist will be picked to discuss design costs and further funding of any project.
“We’re not interested in raising city taxes,” said Everson, adding naming options may be available for parts of the facility. “We would like to do this with some donations from various entities.”
What’s the current makeup inside the Corn Palace?
A previous community study highlighted the importance of maintaining the Corn Palace as an events center or possibly expanding it, Greenway said. Everson pointed out the Corn Palace used to host more state tournaments, including a youth wrestling tournament and high school basketball state tournaments. He’d also like to see more outdoor and farm shows be able to host events at the Corn Palace in the winter months.
“Mitchell actually has the third-most hotel rooms in the state of South Dakota by count,” Everson said. “People like to come here, we’ve always heard that.”
Right now, the interior of the Corn Palace is 39,200 square feet, with the arena floor making up 10,000 square feet, the stage floor 2,225 square feet and the main lobby area 4,800 square feet. There’s four dressing rooms, one star dressing room and one hospitality room.
“We gotta start somewhere and this gets us going in the early discussions and moving forward with what we think we need to do to make the palace a better place to host events and bring people to the city,” Everson said.
The Corn Palace has a rough maximum capacity of 3,200 for concerts and basketball games and Greenway noted the building has 1,768 fixed soft seats.
“You don’t move those,” Greenway said. “In order to gain some floor space, we’d replace some of those with retractable seats.”
Tearing down the stage, could also be an option to add more floor space.
Keeping the Corn Palace as a tourist attraction
While discussions have started for possible changes inside the Corn Palace, Greenway is preparing for a busy summer season. The Corn Palace is also celebrating 100 years in its current building. The first idea for the building was in 1892 and a second building opened in 1905 before a more permanent building was completed in 1921.
Greenway said while interior design ideas come, keeping the outside murals of corn intact will remain a high priority in any proposed changes.
“We’re still a tourist attraction. We have 300,000 visitors a year just to see the murals and the building,” Greenway said. “Keeping the integrity of the murals is important.”
Greenway said any changes inside the Corn Palace will still be years down the road, but added there’s been excitement about possible new ideas inside the building.
“I’m very excited that we are looking at increasing the opportunities to do things here at the Corn Palace,” Greenway said.
Starting on Memorial Day until Labor Day, the Corn Palace will be open to the public 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.