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Allender: New arena to open by fall 2021
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Allender: New arena to open by fall 2021

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On Tuesday, Rapid Citians bought the city’s plan for a new $130 million arena. Now, it’s the city’s turn to start buying.

On Monday, city and civic center leadership will meet with the architects, construction manager and owner’s representative for the first time since Rapid Citians overwhelmingly approved plans to construct a new arena just northwest of the current Barnett Arena.

Construction contracts and final design work will be discussed and start in the near future, Allender said in a news conference Wednesday morning. Contracts already in place for the lead up to Tuesday’s decision will be replaced with new contracts that extend through the design and construction phases to come.

Allender said the same companies hired for the work ahead of Tuesday’s election — Perkins+Will and JLG Architects for architectural design work, Mortenson Construction and Scull Construction for the construction manager at-risk job, and TEGRA Group as the owner’s representative — will continue those duties for the rest of the project.

Though it’s early, Allender and Civic Center Executive Director Craig Baltzer pegged late summer or early fall of 2021 as a hopeful date for the grand opening of the arena. Construction is slated to begin next spring, with an estimated 22-month construction period.

Before that, final design work should take between eight and nine months and will be immediately followed by the purchase of materials for construction. The construction manager will advertise and award all bids for materials and work, Allender said. They’ll also take on any liability should the project come in over budget.

“All of the potential surprises that could come up in a construction project have been investigated,” Allender said. “If there are any surprises, that is a risk that the construction manager takes. This is a very safe project and it’s not going to get out of hand and end up being a burden on the taxpayers.”

In the meantime, operations and events at the Barnett Arena will go on as planned. Only once the new arena is open, Allender said, will the Barnett Arena transition from its current use to a more limited, 1,400- to 2,000-seat space.

As final designs are drafted, Allender said he expects the city to hire a marketing company to oversee the sale of sponsorships and naming rights to the new arena. Funds for the naming rights, Allender said, will go toward the civic center’s operational costs — not the new arena construction — which Baltzer expects to jump by about 10 percent once the new arena is open.

Additional staff and the increased cost of utilities were cited as two major causes of the increase, with current annual operational costs at about $10 million. Denny Sanford and his First Premier Bank agreed in 2014 to pay $750,000 per year for at least the next 25 years to have their name emblazoned on the aptly named Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls.

At the end of the conference, Allender and Baltzer praised the election results, saying it will not only keep Rapid City and the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center relebvant but will give the center a flexibility it has never had prior.

“Every square foot of this floor that we’re standing on will compliment the new arena,” Allender said from the floor of the Barnett Arena. “The whole plan here and the whole benefit of doing this is turning this facility into a multipurpose facility.”

Baltzer focused on the new arena’s adaptability, which he noted would hold up to 12,500 people for the largest events all the way down to 3,000 — using curtains to cover the other seating — for smaller events like graduations and high school basketball games. The lower level telescopic seating can be easily removed, Baltzer added, allowing the floor space to jump from 17,000 to 30,000 square feet.

“This building is going to be extremely flexible,” he said. “It gives us a tremendous amount of range.”

Contact Samuel Blackstone at samuel.blackstone@rapidcityjournal.com and follow him on Twitter or Facebook @SDBlackstone.

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