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The planning, design and construction team behind the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center’s new arena project said the planning phase was just over 10 percent complete at a brief working session meeting Wednesday afternoon.

Comprised of representatives from the construction team of J. Scull Construction Inc. and Mortenson, a design team of JLG Architects and Perkins + Will, and Tegra Group, the city’s representative for the project, the discussion centered on schematic designs for the arena. A bevy of city and civic center staffers, Mayor Steve Allender and Civic Center executive director Craig Baltzer were in attendance. 

With a survey of the construction site by FMG Engineering now complete, the focus shifts to the guts of the arena, including the structural, mechanical, HVAC, plumbing and electrical components, representatives said. One question the team hopes to answer soon is whether the existing civic center’s utilities, boiler and cooling systems have the capacity to service the new arena, too.

Beginning with the top of the arena, designers have recently begun investigating the new arena’s potential rigging capacity — a system of rope lines, pulleys, counterweights and related devices just below the arena’s roof where lights, curtains, speakers, and video screens can hang — and consulting with Baltzer about the needs of the shows he’d like to book once the arena is complete.

The discussion momentarily forayed into the minutiae of different redi-mix concrete recipes and the associated costs of each. Will it make more sense to use pour-in-place concrete mix or purchase pre-cast concrete slabs? An analysis of the local market for building materials would determine much, said Andy Scull, President of J. Scull Construction Services, Inc., the local construction partner in the project.

Hovering above each conversation is the project budget of $130 million. The extensive planning, representatives reiterated, was to ensure there were no cost overruns, change orders or surprises.

Discussions of the arena’s exterior have yet to begin, but Baltzer said when they do he expects more public engagement, outreach, and even the possibility of a citizen-led focus group or committee to hear what residents would like to see.

Moving forward, the city expects to publicize the behind-the-scenes planning work about once per month, city spokesman Darrell Shoemaker said after the meeting. Now about halfway through the schematic design process, design development will come next before construction document preparation and bidding, and finally, the start of construction.

On June 6, one day after Rapid City voters overwhelmingly supported the city’s plan to build the new arena, Allender 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.

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Contact Samuel Blackstone at and follow him on Twitter or Facebook @SDBlackstone.

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City Reporter

City reporter for the Rapid City Journal.