‘Not just buzzing through’: Sioux Falls aims to benefit from Sturgis Rally traffic

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — When it comes to the Sturgis Rally and the economic impact in Sioux Falls, a specific image comes to Teri Schmidt’s mind — a row of motorcycle bikes lined up in a hotel parking lot at sundown. 

“That’s what we like to see,” Schmidt, the longtime Experience Sioux Falls Executive Director, said. “For so many years, they did drive right by us because you can go down I-90 and not realize what’s here.” 

That’s why for many years, members of Experience Sioux Falls would welcome bikers at the Valley Springs Information Center on Interstate 90. For the second year in a row, Experience Sioux Falls will not be hosting a welcome tent along the interstate.

Schmidt pointed to construction at the I-90 rest stop as one of the reasons the Experience Sioux Falls group won’t be welcoming bikers this year, but she hopes they’ll restart the tradition again in the future. 

“We know the Sturgis Rally is big for the whole state of South Dakota,” Schmidt said. “We started advertising out in the biker world that we are a perfect one day’s drive to the rally and it has worked. We have a lot of bikers come in, stay overnight. They enjoy our downtown and other parts of the community.” 

She called the J&L Harley-Davidson shop “the perfect reason” for many bikers heading to Sturgis to stop in Sioux Falls. Over the years of the Sturgis Rally, Schmidt said Sioux Falls has seen increases in the number of bikers who stop here. She credited advertising from both Experience Sioux Falls and South Dakota Department of Tourism.   

“Bikers are maybe staying a little bit longer and spending a little more time seeing the whole state,” Schmidt said. “Not just buzzing through, going to the rally and right back to their homes.” 

Falls Park visitation numbers typically hit spikes in July and August. Schmidt cited Sturgis Rally traffic, families vacationing before school starts, family reunions and weddings leading to more people visiting Falls Parks. 

Schmidt said “time will tell” when it comes to how big this year’s economic impact will be from Sturgis Rally traffic in Sioux Falls. But she knows, the bikers who did stop often enjoy the time spent in the state’s largest city. 

“They’re enjoying Sioux Falls, so we get hotel room nights out of it, restaurant business, retail business,” Schmidt said. “It’s a good shot in the arm in the summetime for Sioux Falls.”  

If the Sturgis Rally has attendance numbers around 700,000, like the record levels of the 75th anniversary in 2015, Sioux Falls will receive a benefit of that traffic. 

“We hope to see sales tax numbers,” Schmidt said. “For those who decide not to overnight, did they stop in Sioux Falls to get gas? Eat lunch? Eat breakfast?” 

And she hopes to see those lines of motorcycles parked in hotel parking lots at night.

“Ultimately, of course, we want them to stay overnight so we see a bump in the lodging tax,” Schmidt said.

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