Simplified: Mayor Paul TenHaken on Monday announced a "2050 vision" for what the city is calling the Riverline District east of downtown, and step one is allocating about $8 million for the city to purchase the land as the site of a future convention center.
Why it matters
- Monday's announcement comes a little over a year after the idea for the Riverline District was originally pitched as a way to redevelop a 10-acre site near the 10th Street viaduct between Nelson and Fawick Parks.
- Back then, the emphasis was on the potential for a new sports stadium or some other type of indoor recreation. But after about 1,600 community survey responses last year, TenHaken on Monday instead focused on the potential sales tax revenue a new, state-of-the-art convention center could bring to downtown Sioux Falls.
- The long-term pitch is for the existing convention center to be repurposed into an indoor recreation space – a point emphasized by the dozens of children who were bused in to be present for Monday's event, which included a number of games from basketball to soccer to pickleball.
"The cake is not baked at all," TenHaken said Monday of the Riverline District property. "This is purely a vision."
How did we get here?
The Riverline District vision started about a year and a half ago as part of the conversations during the Downtown 2035 vision planning.
- The parcel of land now known as the Riverline District became available in part because the state Department of Social Services currently located there is being moved to the new South Dakota One Stop building at Dawley Farms.
Over the last year, a group of 40 community members and business leaders have been working as the Friends of the Riverline District group – along with the city, Forward Sioux Falls and other economic development and tourism partners.
- A survey asking people for feedback about what they want saw 1,600 responses, and TenHaken said it was a "loud and clear" message that survey respondents didn't want a stadium downtown.
"If people don't think we're listening, we're listening," he said.
Tell me more about the new convention center
It's all a bit "pie in the sky" right now.
- There are some early renderings, but no actual plans are in place for what it'll look like, any potential public-private partnerships involved, parking, square footage, design or cost.
TenHaken said he knows it'll be bigger than the existing convention center. He also anticipates there'll be a full-service hotel involved, and his rough estimate for the total cost for the project was around $200 million to $250 million.
"Building a state-of-the-art convention center is not cheap," TenHaken said.
And then what happens to the existing convention center?
The vision is to turn it into an indoor recreation space to give kids another place to go in the winter months to run and play.
- Again, it's too soon to say what that might look like or cost, TenHaken said.
What about the Sioux Falls Arena, the Birdcage and the Premier Center?
That's the next big question. The city had paused its Event Center Campus task force while the Riverline District conversations were ongoing, but now that group will begin meeting again this week.
- TenHaken noted that perhaps the arena could also become indoor recreation space.
- He also said he knows more investments are needed at the Birdcage, and while he thinks moving a baseball stadium downtown would've reenergized community interest in the Sioux Falls Canaries, the community wasn't willing to take the gamble of building a downtown stadium.
What happens next?
Right now, the Sioux Falls Development Foundation is holding the land, and TenHaken said he intends for the city to purchase it for a total of $8 million in 2025.
Then, it's a matter of going back to the community for feedback about what this new convention center should look like and how the city will pay for it.