Fox Sports Nate Brown: Rapid City Events Center and Six-Man Football in Western South Dakota
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SDPB's Nate Wek sat down with Rapid City Fox Sports radio host Nate Brown to discuss some of the big changes happening in Rapid City with the new events center. Additionally, they discussed how six-man football could look on the west side of the state when it's implemented in the fall of 2019.
With a new events center getting passed in Rapid City – how stoked are you? How excited are the people of Rapid City for this new venue?
Well, I think it's a big resounding yes to what type of community Rapid City wants to be. When you look at this vote happening, back in 2015 a lot of people thought it was just not as well planned out, too big, too much money. Then I think there's been a turn of events, and people realizing ... The Rapid City city government actually saved 25 million dollars for a down payment, that was one start, Mayor Steve Allender was out in front of this telling us, in telling the community the benefits outside of, "Hey, this is actually bigger than just concerts."
This could be very large in respect to basketball tournaments, whether that's state or whether that's LNI. This is about trade shows, expanding the current events that are there. Black Hills Stock Show to Pro Bull Riders; there are so many things that people look at here. I think the community said this is the time to do it now. It's more responsible from a money standpoint. 130 million dollars, as opposed to 180 million dollars, and the size of it scaled down from the Pepsi Center, like in Denver, 18,000 to 19,000 seats to about 12,000 seats.
I think it was just a more thought out plan, definitely better promoted, getting the details out. People obviously think ... 64% of people said, "Yeah, it's time to do it. That's a pretty big win all the way around."
With West River South Dakota getting a state of the art facility, does this mean certain concert tours or traveling events will now look at Rapid City as a for sure pit stop when traveling throughout the United States?
Yeah, I think that's what I've heard on my show is ... Maybe the concern might be for a community like Fargo, actually, with this brand new event center, and brand new arena in Rapid City, that when the big concerts are putting their schedule together they're looking, where can we make the most bang for our buck, and where do we want to go? The place missing was west.
A lot of these concerts want to get down to Denver. We're only about five hours away, right in that neighborhood. They want to go ... You can go to Sioux Falls now, from Omaha up to Sioux Falls, and over to Rapid City, down to Denver. I think the touring is going to be a major factor there, and I think that's going to be big.
You mentioned the difference between 2015 and 2018. It reminds me of when Sioux Falls was going through similar conversations a few years back about building a new entertainment venue, and how there was a lot of opposition. Then when Mayor Mike Huether took office, he was a big proponent that was out in front of getting a proposal passed by the people of Sioux Falls. I see the same when I see what Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender did.
What did the leadership feel like three years ago in 2015 when Rapid City was last trying to pass an event center proposal? Was there support from the higher up public figures at that time?
It didn't feel the same, and I don't want to necessarily point fingers, but it didn't feel the same. I think one of the big factors why Mayor Allender got out in front of this to explain it to a majority of the public was this: The plan in 2015 was going to use up almost all of our vision fund, which is the half-cent sales tax that was implemented to start the original Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
We've had this half-cent sales tax, been used for many great community projects, and I mean a lot of great projects, and people love that half-cent sales tax and what it's done for the community, from a quality of life standpoint and infrastructure standpoint. Instead of using all of it for the Civic Center like they were gonna do in 2015, this plan, 130 million dollar plan, 12,000 seats, still going to get you an arena, it's going to use roughly half of it, leaving half for other community projects, and I think that was a big factor.
The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center will still have the Barnett Arena and the Ice Arena as well, along with this new events center. How big is it to still be able to have those other two venues as well at the same campus as to where this new venue will be?
I think that's something that was talked about amongst some of the public out there saying, "Well, maybe we should move this new arena. We need better parking, and we need a better location. Let's get it way out east and on the interstate." People don't understand, you want the complex to stay there. Why? You just mentioned Barnett Arena is going to be repurposed for maybe graduations, maybe youth sporting tournaments, from a smaller scale. You keep everything all in one place. You can have the combined girls and state basketball tournaments.
All of these things, the conventions and everything, they need one campus. And put the new arena as a part of the Ice Arena, Barnett Arena, now a brand new arena with the theater and convention space all right there. That's a no-brainer.
A new pattern has emerged with both Class AA and Class A basketball moving towards a joint boys and girls basketball weekend. Both Sioux Falls and Rapid City will host a joint state basketball tournament every year for the foreseeable future. How will this new event center play into hosting that? Is it a huge upgrade?
I say this, the state of the art facility in this region and in South Dakota. Now, I love the Premier Center. I've been back there. I think it's great, but when you look at the facility that we're going to have with the new arena now. With the Barnett Arena, the Ice Arena, and all of the possibilities there. I think we're going to have the state of the art facility. And for state basketball tournaments, it’ll be so easy now to accommodate it. You're not going to go from a state of the art Ice Arena, which many people like here. You saw the digital scoreboard. You saw all that stuff.
And then you'd go over to the Barnett Arena and it was old. It was just out of date. Now you're going to have new and new. And I think the athletes and fans are really going to experience a great opportunity out here at state tournaments.
Jumping over to the six-man football topic. How do you see six-man football working on the west side of South Dakota?
I think it's going to be a little bit of a challenge out here, western South Dakota. Why? The geography is a little bit different from our small schools and the distance that there is in between them. We don't have as many co-ops as back east river. Because I know I think a lot of the co-op teams are saying, Hey, we might be able to have our own team again, our own high school, our own Friday night lights. You know, that whole fun experience for our own school. That may work pretty well.
Out here I look at it and I say, Well, I've talked to Harding County, for example. They would have an opportunity to go six-man. They don't want to do it. I've talked to Wall. They could go six man. They don't want to do it. So there are some communities that say, We still want to be nine man football. We have a proud tradition, a winning tradition of being nine man football teams. We're going to stay that way.
So that leaves now, if there's not going to be as many west river teams possibly joining the six man ranks that could, they're going to stay nine man. How many six-man teams are we going to have out here? What's the distance for travel? And I've even heard, well, there might be games that you might have to take from Montana, maybe Nebraska. Colorado as far, has been mentioned a little bit to get games. So I just don't know how it's going to work because I don't think we know how many teams are going to go six-man, especially out here in western South Dakota. I don't know if there's going to be a big number.
How do school districts balance out the potential? Especially with travel, how do school districts plan to crunch those numbers and balance that out?
Well, I think it's going to be a challenge. There's no doubt because you're going to have to try and put together a regular schedule. And I know Edgemont, for example, there's a perfect example. They're excited about the six man opportunity. Their enrollment is really down, really small community. They want to stay playing football. Now they're going to go six man and they're going to schedule games right away with one of their teams that's close by in Nebraska. So they're thinking about these things but I just wonder if you're going to be able to put together a full schedule. Where you're going to have to go. What the official situation is going to look like when you have an official shortage here in the state and throughout the country.
So South Dakota looking at, okay, so can officials also manage these other games that are thrown into the mix. So it'll be interesting. I think it's a good opportunity for some schools. But I don't think it's necessarily easy for others.
The rules with six-man football are obviously different than that of 11-man and even nine-man football. Is there a part of the six-man game that excites you when looking at how the game is played?
I think it's basketball of grass is what I've been told. And I come from a state, Montana, where we've had six-man football. And I saw some of those games. The center, for example, snaps it and goes out for a pass. So it's non-traditional. Some people think, ‘Oh, this takes the big man, meaning the old lineman, the D lineman, kind of out of the game because it's just fast and furious. And the big offensive, defensive linemen just don't have a spot anymore.‘
But that might be a concern a little bit because the center, as I said, goes out for a pass. But you could look at it both ways. Hey, I can be on the offensive line and I can catch a touchdown pass. That's kind of fun.
Since it’s baseball season and many South Dakotans are attending games on a regular basis this time of year, where is the best place, in your opinion, to watch games in the Mt. Rushmore State?
That's a tough one because there is great tradition with Post 22. There's probably not a better stadium in South Dakota from that standpoint. So I'll give you a mixed answer. That's probably one of the better atmospheres with thinking about what Post 22 has done over the years, and the excellence that they've had and the stadium, the backdrop. You've got the hills in the background. That's all great.
And then I'd mention the younger demographic for baseball too. I’ve experienced the state tournament when it comes to little league baseball. And I’ve experienced it from the outfield of Rushmore Little League, which just named their field Craig Tieszen Field. He was a beloved member here in this community that passed away just last year. And they just renamed it Craig Tieszen Field. And I had one of the best pure baseball experiences sitting out with everyone else. There's over a thousand people in their lawn chairs watching the little league state tournament right here in Rapid City. And that was fun too.