Rushmore Arena May Go To Vote

A controversial expansion of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center will likely go to Rapid City, S.D., voters for approval with the submission of 2,866 petition signatures demanding a say in the issue.

If 2,062 of the signatures – 5 percent of the city’s registered voters – submitted by the Civic Center Vote committee are validated, the plan to expand the civic center will be referred to a public vote to take place as early as March 10, according to KOTA-TV.  

Rapid City council members approved a financing plan through which local sales tax money would repay the $180 million the city is seeking in bonds for the arena, a plan Civic Center Vote opposes.

The use of public funds for a 300,000-square-foot arena is a touchy one in Rapid City and many other secondary and tertiary markets, especially so when there are conflicting opinions about viability of a large venue in a region with competition and a relatively small population base.

In the case of the Rushmore Plaza arena addition, Los Angeles-based consultant AECOM reportedly advised that a 19,000-seat arena – replacing aging Barnett Arena – could draw such A-list talent as Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, and Justin Timberlake, supported by a population base of 145,000 across several counties.

Skeptics point out that the proposed arena capacity represents more than 10 percent of the entire population of a three-county region. Proponents of the plan argue that Rapid City’s position as a gateway to national parks and tourist attractions such as Mount Rushmore ensures tourist traffic to the venue.