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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Events Center Team Lacks Input from Event Planners

It looks like Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether has a case of LAIC-itis. This malady, familiar to all residents of Madison and Lake County, causes public officials to pursue their own agenda for economic development without involving the citizens who would actually drive that economic development.

I base my diagnosis on the roster of folks Mayor Huether picked to help choose a design firm for the events center the mayor wants to build:

[from Ben Dunsmoor, "Downtown Group, Mayor Clash at Meeting," KELOLand.com, 2010.11.08] The team includes five men from from the different schools in town and the Sioux Falls Sports Authority:
  • Mark Lee: University Center
  • Willie Sanchez: University of Sioux Falls
  • Frank Hughes: Augustana College
  • Jeff Kreiter: Sioux Falls School District
  • Mike Sullivan: Sioux Falls Sports Authority
It also includes these five department heads from the City of Sioux Falls:
  • Mike Cooper: Director of Planning and Building Services
  • Darrin Smith: Director of Community Development
  • Don Kearney: Director of Parks and Recreation
  • Tom Huber: Acting Director of Finance
  • Mark Cotter: Director of Public Works

Good to see my Lake Herman neighbor Mark Lee on the list!

Then again, maybe it's not. Mark Lee is a good guy, but he probably won't be directly responsible for bringing any events to the new events center. The campus he oversees offers part-time classes for part-time students but, as far as I know, little in the way of entertainment or social programs that would require a big events center. Likewise for Augie and USF: they have their own performance centers for their campus activities. The school district and the sports authority might run some big events in a new facility; the five city employees on the team almost certainly will not.

Forget the fretting the Mayor Huether stacked the team with people he can boss around. The real problem here is the absence of convention planners. Where are the folks who host the Big Boys Toy Show, the farm and craft shows, and the other vendors who hawk their wares at the big weekend extravanganzas? Where are the political parties that might bring conventions and political rallies? Where are the artists and community theater folks who might organize arts festivals at the events center? Where are the people who will actually put this building to work?

Granted, the folks on the above team are just picking the design firm, not doing the design themselves. But let's hope the design firm will look beyond the team that gives it this plum job and seek input from all stakeholders.

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