Rapid City officials vote to spend $180 million on new arena; resident calls for public vote

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RAPID CITY, South Dakota — Rapid City officials have approved spending $180 million to build a new arena at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, replacing the existing Barnett Arena.

The city council voted 7-3 Monday night in favor of the project after more than three hours of testimony and debate, the Rapid City Journal (http://bit.ly/1pLNyUG ) reported. Local sales tax money would repay the $180 million the city is seeking in bonds for the arena, which could seat up to 19,000 people. But the arena could ultimately cost $420 million over 30 years with interest, making it the most expensive municipal project in Rapid City's history.

Civic center board member Don Frankenfeld had asked the council to allow the public to decide whether or not the city should build a new arena. He started distributing a petition for a binding public vote on the expansion just moments after the council's vote. The campaign needs roughly 2,000 signatures by 5 p.m. on Jan. 2 to force a referendum on the council's decision.

Other city officials are worried the move could delay the project and increase costs. Council President Jerry Wright said the initiated measure is unnecessary because a referendum could still be pursued.

"I believe the council has the obligation to vote on this as it's written," Wright said. "They left it in our hands. I think it's totally appropriate that we vote for this."

Mayor Don Barnett, the namesake of Barnett Arena, voiced his support for the expansion and the city's plans to fund it.

Supporters of the new arena say Rapid City needs a new venue to attract events and acts, and to avoid costly fixes for access issues at the existing arena.

The $180 million price tag for the arena expires after June 2015, and then is expected to increase.


Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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