A special city council meeting will be held in February to determine the future of Barnett Arena and Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. 

The council will be presented with two options — remodel Barnett Arena or build a new facility — and then asked to approve a funding plan. 

Mayor Steve Allender said in an interview that he will hold more public presentations on the two options in January and February, ahead of the special meeting. An exact date for the special meeting has not been set. 

"I will present until no one shows up," Allender said, adding that he will also be speaking with private groups and business organizations. "It's an important issue." 

Allender has said in previous presentations that building a new arena would cost around $182 million, including principal and interest. The estimated $6 million annual debt payments for the arena would tie up 54 percent of the city’s Vision Fund collections over a 30-year period. 

Remodeling Barnett Arena would cost up to $28.3 million, including interest. That plan would also take money from the Vision Fund, but with lower annual debt payments and a quicker payoff period.

The city must move forward with one of the two options because Barnett Arena is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the federal government is requiring the city to come into compliance.

Regardless of which option the council selects, the final decision could rest in the hands of Rapid City voters. To get the issue to a referendum, state law requires that 5 percent of the city's registered voters need to sign a petition.

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If that happens — and Allender has said he expects it will — a public referendum could take place June 5, when the state is scheduled to hold primary elections. 

In 2015, Rapid City voters in a citywide referendum overwhelmingly denied a proposed $180 million expansion of Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Over the life of a 30-year debt schedule, the total principal and interest to finance that plan would have been between $340 million and $420 million.

Allender said the 2015 plan to pay for a new arena would have drained the city's Vision Fund, while his current proposal utilizes just over half of the fund.

Allender, who has made no secret of his preference for a new arena, said he believes that through the public presentations and greater transparency, he is changing the minds of people who are skeptical about the need for a new facility. 

"It's a very safe plan," he said.  

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City Editor

City editor for the Rapid City Journal.