Washington Pavilion’s downtown impact 20 years later

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Saturday marks a big milestone for a downtown Sioux Falls landmark.   That’s when the Washington Pavilion turns 20-years old.  A day long festival will kick-off a month of celebrating.

Christina Grebel and her two little girls are enjoying the shuttle display in the Science Discovery Center 20 years after the launch of the Washington Pavilion.

“When we lived here for college at SDSU in Brookings they were just starting it up, but I hadn’t stopped here until I had kids. And they seem to enjoy it,” Grebel said.

As the first chairman of the Pavilion’s board of trustees, George Lundberg held the scissors that cut the ribbon twenty years ago. He also campaigned hard to convince Sioux Falls voters to approve funding for the project.

“I remember the bond issue. We had some 20,000 voters in it, and we won by 800 votes. So it was a tough sell,” Lundberg said. 

Early critics of the pavilion said it was a taxpayer-funded luxury that would only cater to the wealthy. But through the years, Lundberg says the pavilion has proven itself as an attraction for people from all walks of life.

“It just really tickles me to watch the yellow school buses show up, and the kids pile out and come in here and enjoy this place,” Lundberg said.

The brand-new pavilion was a cornerstone of development in downtown Sioux Falls. That’s a commitment that remains strong twenty years later.

“Back in 1999, when the pavilion opened, people weren’t coming downtown. There was no nighttime action. In fact, people were discouraged from coming downtown for a wide variety of reasons and the pavilion really was the first step to changing all that,” Washington Pavilion President & CEO Darrin Smith said.

And as downtown keeps growing, the Pavilion expects to expand its arts and science outreach in the decades to come.

One way the Pavilion is expanding its fine-arts footprint is by taking over management of the downtown Orpheum Theater later this summer.

If you’d like to see a rundown of activities for Saturday’s festival, click here 

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