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OURS: It's time to do homework on Barnett Arena

The Rapid City Journal - 12/31/2017

In fewer than eight weeks, the Rapid City council will be asked to decide whether to build a new Barnett Arena or spend an estimated $25 million to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is being required by the Department of Justice.

It also will be more than two years since voters rejected a plan to spend $180 million to build a new facility as well as a parking garage as part of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center complex.

So, what has changed? Quite a bit actually.

What is discouraging, however, is many residents seem to have already made up their mind without taking the time to study the issue even though Mayor Allender has held a number of presentations on the past, present and potential future of Barnett Arena. He's made a real effort to educate the public.

Those efforts will continue in the weeks preceding a special city council meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 26, to consider how the city will proceed on this critical issue.

First, the mayor will hold two more public presentations at LaCroix Hall in the Civic Center. The first will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11, and the second at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20. In addition to a power-point presentation that lasts around an hour, there will be a question-and-answer session and a tour of Barnett Arena. The mayor also has said he will make additional public presentations if they are requested.

For those not inclined to attend public presentations, the city has posted the mayor's presentation on the website barnettarena.com. It consists of 10 video segments that address the economic impact, competitive challenges, options, pros and cons, funding and the history of arenas in Rapid City, which includes the construction of the Alfalfa Palace in 1917. It lasts 50 minutes and 21 seconds with the longest segment being 10 minutes and 21 seconds.

The assumption at this point is if the council votes again to build a new arena, the decision will be challenged by opponents who will circulate petitions to put the matter on the ballot regardless of its merits, which will mean another special election.

Rather than waiting for a petition or signing one without knowing all the facts, it is best to get engaged now and let your council members know what option you support. But, first, take the time to either attend a public presentation or at the very least go to the website and learn about the options straight from the source.

Mayor Allender and his staff have done everything they can to educate the public about the issues surrounding Barnett Arena. Now, it's your turn - your obligation - to study the issue and make your voice heard before the Feb. 26 council meeting.


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