It will cost as much as $37.9 million to bring the Barnett Arena at Rapid City's civic center in to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a report released Thursday by the civic center board of directors.
That board, along with civic center leadership, is the same group that last July proposed spending $125 to $150 million to build a new arena with 15,000 to 20,000 seats. Among the reasons cited was the need to make the Barnett Arena compliant with the federal law.
Civic center staff and the board have long known the arena does not comply with the ADA. The question, they said, was how much it would cost to fix it. Thursday's report answered that, according to civic center General Manager Brian Maliske.
"First, something needs to be done. It's not allowable to thumb your nose at federal law," he said.
The most costly improvements — new construction on the west and east sides to accommodate the restrooms, concessions and additional ADA-accessible seating — would cost $7.8 million and $5.2 million respectively, the report said.
In addition, the report said new elevators are needed to transport wheelchair-bound patrons to areas of the Barnett Arena beyond the one row of seats on the south side.
The study, done by local architectural firm FourFront Design, cost about $24,000 and was verified by Mortenson Construction, a general contractor that built the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D., and the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo.
FourFront and Mortenson had slightly different estimates on how much it would cost to address the 402 ADA violations detailed in the report. FourFront said $36.2 million, Mortenson $37.9 million.
The report comes at the same time that the Justice Department's Disability Rights Section is investigating a complaint that the civic center is not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Justice Department received the complaint last August from an unidentified source and conducted a compliance review that month, though no specific violations were mentioned. The department is now evaluating the results, according to a February 2013 letter to Sen. John Thune.
For Maliske, the complaint highlights why compliance issues need to be addressed soon.
"You have to be code-compliant. We are a public facility," he said "When you have 8,000 people here, it's different than when you have eight relatives at your house."
One of the original concerns with retrofitting the Barnett Arena, which cost $12.7 million when it was built in 1977, was that construction would decommission the arena for perhaps a couple years.
But FourFront representatives said Thursday they had come up with a design and method for construction that would leave the arena functional even as ADA compliance was being achieved. The catch was that it could take five years to complete the project.
"Each of the pieces are developed so they can be worked on individually," said David Jolly, senior architect at FourFront.
Revamping the arena all at once could take two to two and half years to complete and would shut down the arena.
The report doesn't include non-ADA fixes such as upgrades to bring the arena into compliance with modern building codes or upgrades to keep up with the changing expectations of facility renters who want more space and amenities.