SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Plans for big changes at Falls Park will not go in front of the Sioux Falls City Council for another year.
In October 2021, the city announced Confluence of Sioux Falls won the Falls Park Design Competition with a detailed 70-page proposal that outscored four other design proposals from a committee of city staff, elected and appointed officials and community representatives.
Now, Confluence and the Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Department are preparing for a year of more planning and community engagement before finalizing the Falls Park Master Plan. A market analysis, stakeholder meetings and assessments are all planned for Summer 2022, while online engagement and three public workshops are scheduled through the first two months of 2023.
Parks and Rec director Don Kearney said the community will help identify what the final Falls Park Master Plan looks like during the next 12 months. He called it the next transition from the Falls Park Design Competition and added a new advisory committee will be formed.
“There’ll be a lot of the same members but we’ll also bring in some fresh blood as well,” Kearney said. “It’ll be some new faces, probably. It’s always nice to have a sounding board or group to rely on what you’re hearing out in the community.”
Kearney said people will have chances to share opinions in public meetings as well as an online platform.
“We’re going to try and bring all those ideas together and come up with the very best plan,” Kearney said.
According to presentation documents, future operations of Falls Park may end up transitioning to a non-profit organization or private business, which could maximize revenue and visitors to the park while operating without taxpayer funds. Citing examples of Signature Parks in New York City, the aim for changes at Falls Park would be to create diverse sources of revenue (event fees, restaurant rentals, assessments, concessions, government support and sponsorship).
“We hope to get private investment just like we’re doing with Jacobson Plaza with our new ice ribbon and inclusive playground,” Kearney said. “We also hope to have some entrepreneurial individuals to come in and help with some of the operations like we have the Overlook Cafe and the Visitors Center and bring in a combination of public and private to provide a good mix of services and create a good experience at Falls Park.”
Confluence’s initial estimated construction costs for the Falls Park Master Plan was $23.1 million with $1.1 million in annual operating expenses.
Sioux Falls Park Development Specialist Mike Patten and Confluence’s Jon Jacobson presented an update on the project in a city council informational meeting Tuesday.
“It was all about community,” Jacobson said about Confluence’s winning design plan. “These were just our ideas but we did have conversations with people in the public about this.”
The updates to the Falls Park Master Plan include incorporating the nearby Quarry Lake into Falls Park, while moving some Smithfield parking lots and designing a new East Bank entrance to Falls Park. Other ideas include zipline experiences at Quarry Lake, land bridge connections, creating a “great lawn” space, allowing for development on the park’s edge and connecting better to nearby neighborhoods.
“There is a lot of under-utilized land around this park,” Jacobson said. “We’ll have a number of ways to get the community engaged.”
City council members thanked Confluence for its hard work on designs and talked about how far Falls Park has come.
“This is building a destination event for us,” City Council member Janet Brekke said.
City Council member Greg Neitzert said the plan has synergy with area stakeholders.
Jacobson said Confluence had conversations with property owners near Falls Park to make sure some of the ideas were “grounded in reality.”
“We hope to create a win-win situation so the private sector can hopefully have an opportunity to be part of the ultimate build out of Falls Park and also in the operations of certain aspects,” Kearney said. “We want to create a plan that really sets a vision for the future so Falls Park can continue to be the flagship park for our city.”
You can view some current photos compared with renderings after the project in the photos below.
Current/after view of Falls Park overlook tower
Current/after view of Falls Park Farmer’s Market
Current/after view of Falls Park Quarry Lake
“We’ve already got a lot of great momentum with the Jacobson Plaza project, the Sioux Steel District coming under construction so there’s a lot of energy in and around downtown and Falls Park,” Kearney said. “We just think this master plan is really going to set the vision for the next generation of what Falls Park could be.”