Parking Improvements come with New Arena

Parking lotFighting words to many Rapid Citians, parking is a hotly contested issue at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Statistically, we have as much or more parking at our civic center than any other event center in the region. Our local customers have expectations relating to local parking that they do not have for other venues such as Sioux Falls, Billings, Casper, Bismarck and others. Everyone seems to expect that in other cities they will park and walk or ride a shuttle bus; in Rapid City however, we demand upfront, on-site parking.

One thing is certain: A 1000+ space parking garage makes the new arena proposal unaffordable, and wouldn’t solve the perceived problem. In addition, building an arena somewhere else, for example near the interstate is also unaffordable and is operationally illogical and not feasible.

Nevertheless, it is important to address the people’s desires related to parking as much as possible. The following will be accomplished if a yes vote is achieved on June 5th:

  • A new parking lot will be built immediately to the north of the Civic Center Arena offering 240 additional parking spaces.
  • Sufficient staging space will be built so that traveling show trucks and buses will no longer consume hundreds of parking spaces during events as they currently do.
  • A new shuttle route will be added which will create convenient access to over 1000
    New Shuttle Route
    New shuttle route

    additional parking spaces for evening and weekend events.

  • The northern orientation of the new arena will also make on-street parking a closer and perhaps even more convenient option for many event attendees.
  • Premium parking will be offered, for a fee. As part of the event ticketing process, future attendees will be able to select premium parking as an option; reserved parking can be purchased with an additional ticket at the time of event ticket purchasing. At the time of the event, Civic Center management will know how many spaces to reserve, and the spaces will be the closest spaces to the building outside of the handicap spaces. When the premium parking attendees arrive in the Civic Center lot, they will be met by a parking attendant who will direct them to their space.

Event parking will be made as efficient as possible. It is far less expensive to make better use of the parking we do have, rather than add thousands of parking spaces for periodic use.

In addition to available parking spaces, our issue with parking at the Civic Center is compounded by two other factors: traffic flow in and out of the lots and pedestrian safety.

A plan has been developed to meet these issues head on:

  • North Mt. Rushmore Road will be closed during large events. Access to the Civic Center and Central High School parking lots will be accessed as usual from the south from Omaha St. and from the north, from North Street. This will create a wide safety barrier for pedestrians on N. Mt. Rushmore Rd.
  • Exiting the N. Mt. Rushmore Rd. parking lots will be metered for safety and volume. The northern-most lots will be required to exit to the north while the southern lots will exit to the south. On the 5th Street side, right turns only from the main lot and also from the east lots will allow a smooth transition and will meter the volume on the 5th and Omaha St intersection.

These improvements will allow a safer, smoother flow of vehicle and pedestrian traffic and will make more parking spaces available.

Food for thought: we have spent some time comparing our parking availability to other event centers in the region. I can understand people’s desire for more parking, but IRC and SF Parking comparison cannot understand those that demand we spend $30 million on a parking structure. I cannot support this due to the cost vs. benefit factor. How can I, as an elected public official justify having more available parking than any other event center? What makes us different? How is Sioux Falls’ arena and convention center so successful with LESS parking than we have? Seriously, if you have an answer to these questions, please comment on this post and share your thoughts.

I believe we will make the most efficient use of our existing parking and will benefit greatly from not spending millions on more parking when it is not fully justified. A wise man recently told me: “You don’t build a church for Easter Sunday” meaning your building and parking lots should be sized for the crowd you will get most of the time, not if everyone comes at once.

If you have concerns over parking, you are not being ignored: we have evaluated parking since the citizens task force was appointed in 2016. If you feel there is not, or will not be enough parking for a new arena, especially after the above improvements are in place, the question becomes: will you vote to deny the desires of a majority of residents who believe parking is or will be adequate?  I hope not.

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