Pierre S.D. To Vote On Venue

Residents of Pierre will vote in November on whether the capital city should build a $14.5 million recreation and event center.

The City Commission on Tuesday voted unanimously to put the matter to a public vote during the Nov. 8 general election. Ballot language will be finalized by mid-August, detailing exactly what the vote entails.

“Calling for a public vote is the ultimate gauge of public opinion,” Mayor Laurie Gill said. “If the project truly has the support of the public, we’ll build it.”

Architects say the 57,000-square-foot center would seat 4,000 people and would be similar to the 40,000-square-foot Swiftel Center in Brookings. If approved, it would open in early 2019, replacing the old City Auditorium that was closed in 2010 due to structural issues and demolished in 2014.

The auditorium hosted a variety of events including sports and governor inaugurations. The new facility is being designed for a number of activities, including basketball games and concerts.

City officials have been working on the idea for three years, Gill said. The effort became known to the public last fall when Gill announced a local couple was donating 16 acres of land for a center. The city then held three community meetings to gather public input.

“All along, we have worked hard to engage public sentiment on this decision,” Gill said.

There has been no organized opposition to the proposed center, though Pierre attorney Dave Braun has been vocal about a public vote “so it’s a true community decision.”

The construction cost could be financed by a 20-year loan involving annual payments of about $1.1 million, according to Gill. Estimated annual operating expenses not funded by revenue would require an annual city subsidy of about $450,000. Officials also have said naming rights could be used to help finance the facility.