BOX ELDER, S.D. (KELO) — The City of Box Elder is seeing major growth as the Ellsworth Air Force Base makes way for the brand new B-21 Raider.

While the aircraft won’t arrive for a couple of years, construction projects are well underway.

Box Elder is the 11th largest city in South Dakota and is continuing to grow.

“We believe there is going to be about 4,000 people. We’ve had some updates and we think about 4,000 people including families,” Mayor Larry Larson said.

Ellsworth Air Force Base
Ellsworth Air Force Base

Ellsworth Air Force Base, which is located right in the city, is welcoming the new B-21 Raider in just a few short years. This kind of aircraft requires a lot of equipment and a lot of personnel.

“We are growing leaps and bounds, we are now the 11th largest city in the state with around 11,600. We have 7 or 8 different housing areas being built in and as soon as a house is built or an apartment is built, they’re sold,” Mayor Larson said.

“We are expected to see well over a billion dollars worth of construction investment in preparation for the B-21 alone,” Lynn Kendall, Community Relations Director, said.

A couple of weeks ago, the base broke ground on the first construction project for the aircraft. And there are many more where that came from.

“We will continue to see that so we will see trucks, we will see construction taking place on the base. But we will also see it off base. Ride around in Box Elder and the development around the base has just exploded,” Kendall said.

The Ellsworth Development Authority works with local governments, the base and other organizations to help prepare for the growth of Box Elder.

“And our whole mission is to ensure that the Ellsworth Air Force Base remains a great place for the Department of Defense to do its war fighting mission,” Kendall said.

Box Elder construction
Box Elder construction

As many changes are being made to the base itself, even more changes are happening to the entire city of Box Elder. Including the town’s first ever Main Street.

“Dream Design is part of a public-private partnership to build a downtown for Box Elder, Box Elder actually doesn’t have a downtown right now,” Kelsey Pritchard, Dream Design Int., said.

Liberty Plaza is going to be the new downtown, filled with living spaces, health clinics, shops, restaurants and the Liberty Center.

“We really exist to make the Black Hills more exceptional and we come in and we work with communities to not just talk about problems and identify them but to literally build the solutions to them. And this is one of those situations where we have this public-private partnership where we are working with a lot of different entities to make this happen,” Pritchard said.

Dream Design started construction on the Liberty Plaza in February of 2021. The Liberty Center project is scheduled to be finished by October of this year.”

“I know we are going to see growth of military families but I think non-military folks are going to take notice of what’s happening in this community and they are going to want to be a part of this so I think that growth is going to be on both ends and it’s just a really exciting time for South Dakota,” Pritchard said.

This is a lot of change in a short amount of time. So Mayor Larry Larson says there have been a few challenges along the way. Including infrastructure and accommodating for the large amount of people moving in.

However, the overall feeling that Mayor Larson is getting from people is excitement.

“Some people think it’s moving too fast, but most people are very excited,” Mayor Larson said.

The entire Liberty Plaza project in Box Elder costs around $12.7 million.