Senators back new beef showcase and indoor horse arenas for South Dakota State Fairgrounds

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — State senators gave nearly unanimous support Tuesday for building a new $20 million center at the South Dakota State Fair to replace a beef complex destroyed by fire last fall.

David Wheeler said a 7,000-set indoor facility with two live-event arenas and capacity for 2,000 show cattle is planned at the fairgrounds in Huron.

SB 99 calls for $12 million of state general funds and $8 million from a combination of insurance proceeds and private fundraising. Wheeler said donors have promised more than $4 million so far.

The open-class beef complex burned October 31, 2020. “But out of adversity comes opportunity,” Wheeler said.

Governor Kristi Noem proposed the ambitious project in her December budget speech.

Jean Hunhoff called the legislation Tuesday “a generational bill.” She recalled how producers, a 10-year-old girl who shows animals, and business people came to the Capitol to tell legislators how much they loved the fair and how they plan to provide housing throughout the region for thousands of visitors they expect will come to horseback contests and beef shows.

“This is not just a Huron event,” Hunhoff said. She expressed confidence in former lawmaker Jim White who heads the fundraising. “I want you to know agriculture and families are synonymous in South Dakota,” she said. 

The measure passed 34-1. Another bill, SB 191 that would provide $600,000 to South Dakota State University for planning major renovations at its meat laboratory, received a 35-0 vote.

Gary Cammack said the meat-lab legislation originally sought $25 million. “This project is long overdue. The last major improvements were made over 40 years ago,” he said.

After the roll call finished, Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden said that SDSU opened the lab in the middle of summer and processed hogs when COVID-19 temporarily shut down the Smithfield plant at Sioux Falls.. “They were one of the cogs in the solution,” Rhoden said. “I think it’s noteworthy they played a key part in that and stepped up to the plate when needed.” 

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