Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Politics of Food: The Event Center

It is fall and fall in an even-numbered year means political season in South Dakota. Politics and food often intersect. If you have ever been in Pierre during a legislative session, you would most definitely get a feel for that.

It is not on the ballot this year, and may not be for some time, but as anyone around here knows, the construction of an event center is a major political football here. Just when it looks dead, it returns with a vengeance. The mayor seems intent on building a facility, according to some notion hatched during the last campaign. But the history of getting this project to sell with the electorate is not favorable. Where the whole concept stands now is any one's guess. The city leaders continue to discuss some form of a project, but are reluctant to share that concept with the public. So much for transparency.

I have no doubt that at some point, a new event center will be built in Sioux Falls. This city has an uncanny ability to get these things done somehow despite the loud voices of the naysayers. Let;s just hope it gets done right, And right, by my estimation, means that it gets built downtown.

A downtown event center is a win win win proposition. Assuming you agree with the proposition that this town needs an event center for better concerts, sporting events, and conventions, downtown is the place.

Face it, the only reason to have a new event center out by the arena, or worse yet, somewhere out by an exchange of the only two interstate highways in the state is to have acres of dead flat parking surrounding the thing.

The reason to have an event center downtown is to leverage everything else. I imagine if you could drive downtown for say, an Elton John concert, or a hockey game, and grab a little diner in any of the number of fine places within walking distance. You could enjoy the concert and then take a nice stroll up Phillips Avenue and around downtown to look at sculpture, or perhaps catch some jazz at Touch of Europe, late dessert, or a libation. Try and do that at West Ave and Russell or out in the middle of nowhere.

As an added bonus, just think about what that boost in development downtown could do for getting the West bank and Phillips to the Falls jump started? How about the surrounding neighborhoods for that matter. So many times I hear places like Detroit criticized because the city planners and developers kept moving outward from the city center leaving the older areas to whither on the vine or rot outright. Building the event center between 6th and 8th, near Cherapa Place would jump start revitalization of the Whittier neighborhood like nothing else.

I truly hope we can get this thing built and get it built in the right place. Downtown.

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