SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — City council members held lengthy discussion on the future of the city parks department and the events center complex during the second of three city of Sioux Falls department budget presentations for the $790.1 million 2024 budget Tuesday. 

Finance director Shawn Pritchett and parks and recreation director Don Kearney discussed many upcoming decisions in relation to 2024 budget. You can rewatch the meetings on the city’s website.

The Parks and Recreation department discussed its $42.7 million budget, which included more than $15.7 million for capital projects like expansion of the Midco Aquatic Center, a new clubhouse at Elmwood Golf Course and a new wading pool at McKennan Park. 

Swim pass sales at the Midco Aquatic Center have doubled in five years from $126,000 in 2018 to $256,000 in 2023. Parks and rec director Don Kearney said the increased use at Midco Aquatic Center shows a demand for indoor activity. 

Kearney said the clubhouse at Elmwood Golf Course will be shared during an upcoming open house. Kearney said there will be a new golf cart storage area as well. 

“We’re trying to provide some year-round space for First Tee (youth golf organization),” Kearney said, adding First Tee is fundraising to contribute to the new building. He added the city will continue to use the old clubhouse while a new one is being built.

Council member Rich Merkouris asked about the development of a new city golf course. Kearney said getting a tee time in Sioux Falls is not easy. 

“It has to be on our radar screen,” Kearney said. Kearney said golf courses help housing development and cited both Kuehn Park and Prairie Green as good examples. 

“I think there are a lot of benefits,” Kearney said.  

Council member Greg Neitzert asked about what “indoor space” means for possible future recreation centers at Frank Olson and Kuehn parks. Kearney said adult health and wellness options was the No. 1 request from a survey on the parks department. 

The parks department serves more than 2.5 million visitors and attendees in 2022. 

Kearney said the operating budget includes adjustments for seasonal wages to remain competitive. Kearney said many areas of the parks department continues to deal with inflation pressures.

Pritchett said the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center will celebrate 10 years and the Washington Pavilion will celebrate 25 years in 2024. There’ll be a variety of restorations and upgrades at the events center campus, Washington Pavilion and Orpheum Theater. 

At the events complex, there will be HVAC improvements, canopy restoration, digital way finding, network upgrades as well as ribbon wall and center board replacements scheduled for 2025. 

At the Washington Pavilion, HVAC upgrades, exhibits and a pit elevator are planned, while Orpheum Theater has plans for upgrades to the sound system and dressing room restoration. 

Council member Alex Jensen asked about long term planning around the events center. Pritchett said planning at the events center complex has paused as the Riverline District plans for the future. 

“We’re still in that pause phase,” Pritchett said. Pritchett said events center expansion or what happens with the baseball stadium will be paused until the Riverline District sets plans.

Pritchett said the arena is still being utilized but the city is minimizing investment into the building. 

Communications budget

The city is planning for a $3.3 million communications budget in 2024. 

Allie Hartzle, a city communications and culture officer, said the ways each person receives information is different. 

“We are seeing more niche channels,” said Hartzle, who used an example of young moms being on Instagram and that’s where the city would share city pool information. 

Answering a question from council member Curt Soehl, Hartzle said the city has internal policies regarding social media use while at work. 

Council member Pat Starr asked Hartzle about her role as culture officer. 

“I think it’s going great so far,” Hartzle said. 

READ: 2024 city of Sioux Falls budget

The 2024 budget includes $2.2 million for 24 new full-time employees to work for the city. In 2023, the city added 29 new full-time employees up from 24 in 2022 and 26 in 2021. 

The breakdown of the 24 new full-time employees are: seven new police department positions, four new innovation and technology positions, three facilities management positions, two new planning and development positions, one new human resources position, one finance position, one new fire department position, one new highway and street position, one new storm drainage position, one new parks and recreation position, one new water department position and one new water reclamation position.

Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken, public works director Mark Cotter and Kearney spoke with KELOLAND News about the budget, highlighting how the city is dealing with population growth. 

The 2024 budget is nearly $100 million more than the 2023 budget. TenHaken pointed to increases for services and goods, while taxes have remained the same. 

TenHaken highlighted how infrastructure and public safety combined make up 75% of the 2024 budget. Now serving in his sixth year, TenHaken said he commonly hears how residents want to see tax dollars spent.  

“They want to spend it on police and public safety and making sure crime stays low,” TenHaken said. “They want good roads, they want good water and they want good infrastructure. A lion’s share of the budget goes into those projects.”