Cost to fix just civic center's Disabilities Act noncompliance would top $36 million

2013-03-29T06:00:00Z Cost to fix just civic center's Disabilities Act noncompliance would top $36 millionAaron Orlowski Journal staff Rapid City Journal
March 29, 2013 6:00 am  • 

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.

Contact Aaron Orlowski at 484-7069 or

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(13) Comments

  1. 10th generation patriot
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    10th generation patriot - March 31, 2013 8:30 pm
    Since this is a publicly funded project I would assume the design report compiled to come up with these numbers should be public information. I would assume the city has published this information somewhere probably as a PDF file. If they have not they should. Where can the public view this information?

  2. comeonalready
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    comeonalready - March 30, 2013 4:42 pm
    I hope everyone can just do their homework and make an educated decision. Sounds like everyone has their minds made up before any real information or discussion has happened.
  3. Biggie
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    Biggie - March 29, 2013 7:14 pm
    We never had a problem with The Civic Center until our mayor brought it up. He was likely the one who made the one complaint in the last 40 years. Let's spend millions of dollars to keep 20 from being inconvenienced.


  4. purchased
    Report Abuse
    purchased - March 29, 2013 6:41 pm
    I'm sorry, its 6 high school gyms and 2 professional gyms
    160,000 sq ft.
  5. purchased
    Report Abuse
    purchased - March 29, 2013 6:32 pm
    Wasn't it just in the paper were Sioux Falls is building a new building for the SKY FORCE
    with 12,000 seats plus 6 full size basketball courts and all for 19 million. The full size courts to be used for high school.
  6. WOFY
    Report Abuse
    WOFY - March 29, 2013 1:30 pm
    One complaint in 40 years not bad. The numbers have to make sense. There is no way that this buliding can justify the 150 million they started out quoting. The comments of keeping up with Sioux falls is completely out of line and unprofessional. Sioux Falls has out grown Rapid City on a 2 to one basis and attracts a completely different citizen. People in Rapid City live here because they love the beauty of the Hills and a lower population. Sioux Falls attracts higher paying jobs and there cost of living is also less and they have infastrucutre that brings business into the community. Sioux Falls has a larger tax base to spread out the cost of their Civic Center.
    Rapid City needs to beware this administration is spending money on facilities that will need ongoing maintanence costs. For example the current civic center has 0 money available for capital improvement ( they had to get 3 million to upgrade the energy plant) so we make it bigger ???. The proposed soccer fields needs a million dollar water source above the projected cost for the fields. The proposed 50 meter swimming pool will cost the city thousands to subsidize each year. Currently Horace Mann pool cost close to 100,000 each year to keep it open so we need a bigger one??.
    This Administration does not understand simple financial accounting. Time for Rapid City Citizens to make a call to action. Stop Stop and use Common Sense first.
  7. MS18
    Report Abuse
    MS18 - March 29, 2013 12:44 pm
    Agree. There are two reputable firms that did an estimate and are within 5% of each other to bring the building to compliance. I'm sure there will be plenty of armchair architects and engineers here that will say it can be done for less. I will trust their numbers.

    The question is then what makes sense? Spending $37 million to revamp an existing facility already well into it's lifespan but with plenty of good use ahead or to spend $120 million to have a brand new yet extremely expensive solution?? I don't know which way I would go?? I'm not sure the draw of the Civic Center is large enough to justify a new one. It's a tough decision...
  8. Roland
    Report Abuse
    Roland - March 29, 2013 12:23 pm
    It makes no sense to spend 40 million (plus the expense for parking ramps) to end up with an arena that seats fewer than it does now, and is still old and out of date.

    I get tired of people complaining about the cost of an event - the place gets way more usage than the naysayers will ever admit, and what some people can't seem to co pretend is how much money the CC brings into the city. What else do we have here to draw people? I see a ton of folks who have no problem paying $5 for a pack of cigarettes or $6 for a cup of coffee!

    What better use of tax money to improve the city? What, another park?

    A new arena would be a better use of tax dollars than
  9. scubadoo
    Report Abuse
    scubadoo - March 29, 2013 12:01 pm
    Fix what we have. We don't use it enough to just go build a new one. Either way we would still have too fix the old one. Fix what we have and build a parking ramp.
  10. blackills2012
    Report Abuse
    blackills2012 - March 29, 2013 11:01 am
    Have you ever walked up the steps in the Barnett Arena and had to come down without any hand rails for support. I known alot of people who fell down these steps and finally they hired a saftey personal to address saftey issues at the Civic Center. You all want to know why the activities are high,look at the pay wages for the full time compared to the Seasonal temp. positions, The Manager makes more than our Mayor makes,,and then wwe got others making $20-$27 and hr.Get real, the State Games cost a adult $ 11 and that for one adult to attend a game,what if he had a family of 3. Its about time this arena is updated and I feel fixed what needs fixing and stop building a more space. get a survey of what the community will attend and look to and advertsing company,,its works,..Ok,enough of showing you the truth,Happy Easter
  11. Black Hawk
    Report Abuse
    Black Hawk - March 29, 2013 8:34 am
    I don't understand what the alternative is? To keep the Civic Center in business this money must be spent and there is no alternative (tear it down?). I suggest that the board concentrate on this and the parking problems and less on a new building. Perhaps a new board is an option.
  12. Jason
    Report Abuse
    Jason - March 29, 2013 7:57 am
    FourFront is a quality, local engineering and design firm with graduates from SDSM&T. I trust their prognosis.
  13. concernedconservative
    Report Abuse
    concernedconservative - March 29, 2013 7:39 am
    Seems like someone is trying to justify spending out tax dollars on a new civic center remodel.
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