Next week, citizens of South Dakota’s largest city will vote on whether the city should build an events center.
If you live in Sioux Falls, you have been seeing/hearing plenty of advertising in support of the Events Center. You are also well aware that the mayor is pushing hard to make this happen.
I do not live in Sioux Falls. However, as someone who lives in the Sioux Falls MSA and spends thousands of dollars every year in Sioux Falls, I believe I do have a dog in this fight.
Here are a few thoughts with reference to the events center:
- “Is the City of Sioux Falls currently keeping up with its primary responsibilities?” I would venture that the primary responsibilities come down to security (police and fire departments) and infrastructure (roads, water, sewer, etc). To my knowledge, there is no objective comparison of roads between cities, but I believe that all of us to who live and work in Sioux Falls would agree that there are some serious road construction needs which will not be met any time soon under the city’s current plans. Then there is the sewer system, which is in need of repairs (some of which have been done) to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. These things can all be paid for, but it will take quite a bit of time (and raising of various fees and taxes) to make it happen. If the city wants to raise a bond issue for tens of millions, might it not be good to address infrastructure?
- “Has the City of Sioux Falls been profitable with the Washington Pavilion?” It currently costs the City of Sioux Falls about $1.5 million per year in debt maintenance for the Pavilion and Convention Center–which were funded with the same bond issue. If I remember correctly, the Pavilion has been in the red half of those years, requiring additional funding in the hundreds of thousands from the city to make budget. When it did come in in the black, the extra was not enough to offset previous years’ losses. The way in which the Pavilion has been handled sets a standard for how the Events Center would work.
- “How have people’s entertainment consumption patterns changed?” People consume entertainment far differently than they did 10 years ago. Concerts (a big part of any future events center) are not seeing the adherents that they once did. I do not know the numbers for Sioux Falls residents (who has been to see what and where) but going off a nationwide survey from Edison Research (PDF) young people in the 12-24 age range attended 3 or more concerts in 2000. That number dropped to 12% by 2010. I would postulate that there are many reasons for this. One is economics. In hard times, we spend less on entertainment. Another is that electronic media are getting better and better at providing users with an “I felt like I was there” experience. A third reason may well be that while there was a time (back in the days of cassette tapes) when one had the option of buying tapes or attending concerts, one now has so many different options for viewing/hearing much higher quality product.
- “What about secondary revenue?” The idea is that when people come to an event, they will shop, eat, and otherwise spend money in the community–in addition to the price of the tickets for the event. Figuring out the benefits of secondary revenue is a bit of an art. There are quite a number of variables which need to be factored in. One thought is this: if the purpose of the events center is to keep South Dakotans from going to other states for events, then aren’t these people already spending most of their money in South Dakota? Do we believe we are going to keep people here, even with an events center? Most acts that play in Fargo or Sioux City or Omaha will not be playing also in Sioux Falls. People don’t usually go to an event–they go to the one they want to see.
I’m sure that there are more things which could be said, but I’ll stop here. In case it was not clear from the material above: I do not believe the Events Center project as currently proposed is right for Sioux Falls.
However you choose to vote next Tuesday, please do so based on your best understanding of facts (how things really are) and not how you or I or anyone else wishes they would be.