The problems with Downtown Sioux Falls

Jesse from the Blues Bashers kicks it in front of The Touch of Europe

The Gargoyle Leader did a story about the lagging business downtown, but fails to talk about the real problems with Downtown;

The tough national economy has slowed or halted progress on a number of downtown developments, but the news isn’t all bad from an area of town considered by Sioux Falls leaders as one of the city’s top attractions.

While the economy is probably a big part of the problem, there is also other factors;

• The Washington Pavilion is doing fewer events then they first did when they first opened

• There is no dance halls or major live music venues downtown

• Downtown does not appeal to a broader audience, just people who live there and those who can afford fine dining

• Parking meters and lack of convenient parking

• Lack of leadership and marketing from the organization Downtown SF who charges DT businesses a boat load to market them

• Moving events to Phillips to the Falls instead of keeping them on the street in the main DT area

• Lack of weekly DT festivals during the summer

I have often said the City and DTSF have used too much caution when promoting DT. I say ‘Try anything’ and if it fails or causes problems, try something different. Leaders in our community often talk about SF as being progressive, give me a break. Progressives try new things and don’t put stipulations on those ideas. I’m 37 years old, and I have told people that DT SF was a lot more fun and hopping when I was 21 then it is now (in terms of entertainment). Time to turn back the clock.


#1 hosenpheffer on 03.09.10 at 6:25 am

Parking meters and lack of convenient parking is NOT a problem.
#1 the parking meters help to detour people who work downtown from parking in front of businesses where customers would park.
#2 there are multiple ramps and off street parking that are convenient, people are just too lazy to park a few blocks away and walk.
In the winter this faces more than a challenge but, it’s just an easy excuse.

#2 l3wis on 03.09.10 at 6:29 am

There is multiple ramps, but what is DTSF doing to promote them? Nothing. And secondly, as I have told you before, when I worked at the Diner; I own the parking spaces on Phillips Avenue, the DT businesses do not, if I want to park in them, I have that right.

#3 Ghost of Dude on 03.09.10 at 7:28 am

Moving events to Phillips to the Falls instead of keeping them on the street in the main DT area

This one is huge. I remember things like Oktoberfest and other block party type events being held on Phillips Ave. The restaurants and bars would serve beer and some food right outside their storefronts.
We need some sort of a town square surrounded by restaurants, bars, and clubs, and we need for people to be able to walk between all of them.
Another thing DT needs is more late night food options. I’ve thought about opening a taco and slider stand for a while. Drunk people are always hungry. I knew a guy in college who paid for his education running a hotdog stand outside the bars.

I own the parking spaces on Phillips Avenue, the DT businesses do not, if I want to park in them, I have that right.

We all own them, and the meters are there to make sure people who come to spend money at DT businesses have a good chance of parking nearby. I can’t think of a single city I’ve been to that didn’t meter DT parking. just be thankful it’s cheaper than Chicago.

#4 Costner on 03.09.10 at 8:07 am

Maybe they need to let the kids cruise the loop again. At least that ensured somebody was downtown at night.

#5 Plaintiff Guy on 03.09.10 at 8:17 am

Good points here l3wis. If city leaders paid attention to anyone other than their inner minority taxpayer-leeching sect, there’s hope for DT. They have a 1950’s DT in mind with many theaters and small shops. Doesn’t work, in the 21st century it takes nightclubs, coffee shops, and gambling. Sorry, I’m not going to sit in a stuffy theater and listen to someone recite a Longfellow poem when I can get a good scotch, watch sexy girls dance, and lose a couple hundred at a resort casino in northwest Iowa.

#6 Sy on 03.09.10 at 9:29 am

How about we do the same thing places like Omaha, Sioux City, Lincoln, Wichita, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Minneapolis, Denver, Peoria IL, Fort Wayne IN, Kennewick WA, Ontario CA, Grand Rapids MI, Austin TX and just about every other progess-minded metros have done to spur some new development in their downtown area and build our Events Center there? We definately haven’t tried that one yet.

Or is that simply too much “big city” type thinking that we naturally are suspicious of? You might note that Sioux Falls is bigger than half of those cities an has a better economic & population growth rates than pretty much all of them. Even these days.

And don’t give me the “But, there’s no Interstate” line, as that means nothing in terms of accessability. The Fair and Jazzfest are both right next to two IS exits and it takes as long to get in and out as it does for Hot Harley Nights.

#7 Sy on 03.09.10 at 10:09 am

Another similiar City that’s not sitting around with its head up its ass wondering whether or not to take the plunge:

“Create Jobs!
Expansion of the Rochester Mayo Civic Center will create 400 jobs in the building trades for 3 years as well as an estimated 800 permanent jobs across Rochester’s service sector.

Bring new visitors to Minnesota!
At least one-third of the additional visitors to the Mayo Civic Center will be from outside of Minnesota. These visitors will spend money in Rochester’s hotels, restaurants, and shops and will bring additional sales tax revenue to the state.”

Not only do they get it that a Event Center works best downtown (BTW they are 5 miles from the nearest IS), but they also got 1/3 of the money from the State and are paying for it with B&B & Entertainment taxes.

#8 Margery on 03.09.10 at 10:36 am

Is David not a downtown dance hall?

#9 Scott on 03.09.10 at 11:56 am

I should have known you’d use this as an excuse for the Event Center silliness again.

#10 l3wis on 03.09.10 at 12:27 pm

We love you Sy, but Scott is right, you are predictable.

#11 Sy on 03.09.10 at 1:57 pm

Back at ya and then some.

Amazing how all those other “silly” cities aren’t experiencing the dire consequences that Scott and other naysayers are convinced that we will.

Go research any of them. They totally back up what you advocate in funding, like Rochester:

“One-half of the project will be paid for by an additional 1% on Rochester’s existing lodging tax and by a new 1% tax on food and beverage sales. These taxes were authorized by the state legislature in 2009. The other half is being requested through the state bonding process during the 2010 legislative session.”


“The City of Rochester has identified an increase in the lodging tax and a new food and beverage tax as the fairest way to pay for the local share of the cost as they are more directly targeted to tax the users of the expanded facility. This also avoids using scarce local property tax dollars for a facility that provides benefits to a much larger regional and statewide area.”

And they also back what I, Dude & Carter have been saying on location, take Rockford, IL for example:

“You are blazing a trail to build a central focus in the downtown area,” Johnson said. “It boils down to public policy. Do you want a good downtown? And do you want to have the ingredients where you are starting to build and complement other investments you have done, or do you want to let that (return on investment) go to other people? It’s your choice.”

or Albuquerque, NM:

“Location is everything. The City of Albuquerque conducted extensive research to determine that Downtown Albuquerque is the ideal place for the project. Its proximity to and connectivity between the Albuquerque Convention Center, the Rail Runner, the Albuquerque International Sunport, and Alvarado Station make it the ideal location. Downtown already has existing businesses to support any new developments, current and developing transportation options, access to both major freeways, and is centrally located in the heart of the city.”—FAQs.aspx

Yes, I’m a broken record, but it is only because what is patently obvious in places like Lincoln, NE or Everett, WA seems like crazy talk back here in SF.

#12 CCFlyer on 03.09.10 at 2:56 pm

Hopefully with a new mayor (IMO Huether) we can have this plan going and the Events Center thing going. KSFY ran a story a couple of nights ago saying how the Task Force says the ‘Events Center is now dead’. B.S.

Has anyone gone to any of the Mayoral Candidate meetings? I will be going to atleast one of them and maybe bring people along to help back me up on a lot of it. For right now the only candidate that has come out for a Downtown Events Center is Bill Peterson. I dont support him, but I hope atleast Staggers and Huether back him up because Costello sure as hell wont.

#13 Plaintiff Guy on 03.09.10 at 4:27 pm

There’s to many Munson blunders to even consider an events center before another 5 years. Debt is 9 figures. Litigation settlements will be 8 figures once the new mayor addresses what Munson has been hiding. Just forget about an events center. Look for surrounding communities growth because the city has no credit. Munson was looking for ways to further rob taxpayers. Thank god, he’ll be gone before more resources are wasted and the city starts looking like urban blight associated with Detroit and South Chicago.

#14 l3wis on 03.09.10 at 7:43 pm


Technically, yes, but not anything like Borrowed Bucks or Jamz was in the 90’s. And there are live music venues. Touch of Europe and Paramount do live bands, but they are smaller places. I was referring to a bigger place like the Pomp Room. I have often said that if the state theater people had any sense they would make the floor seats removable and when a good band comes to town do the show their. It is no skin off their back since they will be mostly doing movies. The stage is large enough, they will already have a sound system in place, why not?

#15 Scott on 03.09.10 at 8:23 pm

I’m not even going to touch another round of Sy’s apples/oranges arguments this time, but I do have some comments on Lewis’ original post. I used to be a person who believed that any major live music/dance club had to be downtown. The Pomp Room and Nite City/Jamz thrived in the 80’s and 90’s mainly because they were centrally located.

Times have changed, though. As I’ve been making my way back into actually leaving the house, I do enjoy hanging out downtown. Unfortunately, though, Lewis is completely correct when he states that the vast majority of those in downtown venues are there primarily because they live in the area. Thanks to video lottery, karaoke, and tougher DWI laws, the majority of people are sticking to clubs close to where they live and/or work. Those on the far west side of town can be found at bars on Marion Road; southsiders are at those bar/restaurants on 57th street, etc.

Moving city events to Munson’s road to nowhere has definitely hurt the downtown area, as has the lack of events at the Pavilion and Orpheum. Since the city has to throw money at both of these facilities every year, how about making it easier for promoters to put on events in these buildings? Henry Rollins’ return to the area is in Brandon primarily because of the cost and hassle of renting the Orpheum.

As for late night food, that’s pretty obvious. Isn’t the closest after-bar restaurant the Fryin’ Pan across from Ernie’s?

#16 Sy on 03.09.10 at 10:55 pm

That’s cool, Scott. Although I’d like to hear what comparisions, if any, you find relevant. Like you, I prefer the idea of hanging out in a downtown area, whether here or travelling, as long as there’s some semblance of a city’s soul there to experience.

As a City, I think if you don’t nuture your core area you perpetuate urban sprawl, which is much more expensive to keep up with over the long haul.

Just ask Detroit:

#17 Helga on 03.10.10 at 2:03 am

Albuquerque???? Are you kidding me? Have you been to downtown Abq? People weren’t flocking downtown the 4 years we spent there. It was not the place to be at night.

#18 l3wis on 03.10.10 at 3:45 am


Albuquerque is nice, but I know where you are coming from. I spent a week of vacation there about 15 years ago and stayed in a suburb with a friend. One night we went to some clubs, you are right, not the best environment to be alone.

#19 Sy on 03.10.10 at 9:25 am

I guess my point on places like Albqureque is that they clearly see what locating an EC downtown can do. Whether that’s turning it around or adding to already thriving one.

The idea is to do it before you truly need to, because like Detroit it might be to late by then.

#20 Costner on 03.10.10 at 10:15 am

Yes…comparing Sioux Falls to Detroit makes perfect sense, because Sioux Falls is a major hub of the obsolete American automobile which will be devastated when those hundreds of thousands of jobs go elsewhere.

Oh wait… you mean we don’t rely upon one single industry like Detroit? In that case nevermind because your comparison is idiotic.

I’m sure building an Events Center in downtown Detroit would have kept the city from imploding though… that surely would have been the deciding factor (sarcasm intended).

#21 Sy on 03.10.10 at 10:59 am

Well Costner, perhaps you don’t recall the failed pedestrian mall experiment that nearly killed our downtown. That was back when our local Economy was as dependant on Morrells as Detroit’s was on Autos. Back then, credit cards & health care were in their infancy here and we all know how that played out.

I’ve floated multiple cities as comparisons, both bigger & smaller than SF. Like I told Scott, you got a better one I’m all ears.

If not, than you can either man up and cede the point (let’s all hold our breath on that one) or you can go down your typical, worn out road of offering nothing to the conversation.

Or maybe you’d like to explain how Sioux Falls is so special that it’s beyond comparision to anywhere?

#22 Scott on 03.10.10 at 11:25 am

The problem, Sy, is you refuse to admit when a person makes a valid response to one of your comparisons. I’m not going to go round and round with the same arguments. You firmly believe in an EC, and more power to you. I just don’t agree with you, and I’ve laid out my reasons in numerous other threads.

#23 Sy on 03.10.10 at 11:39 am

Well, Scott it seems you guys are saying you can’t compare Sioux Falls to (insert city name here) because they are either too big or too small or in your case none of them matter since the concert industry is dying.

I’m saying other places have taken the plunge and done so successfully so why is it impossible for Sioux Falls to? I have yet to hear a valid reason as to why that’s the case.

I support the EC as long as we put the best plan forward that’s paid for the fairest possible way, and the latest TF plan isn’t it..I think we all agree on that.

#24 Costner on 03.10.10 at 12:22 pm

Sy: Well Costner, perhaps you don’t recall the failed pedestrian mall experiment that nearly killed our downtown.

Killed downtown maybe, but not the entire city. When you compare Sioux Falls to Detroit you are suggesting we could follow their path, and their path has been losing over a million residents since the 1950s, which would equate to over 60,000 residents of Sioux Falls deciding to flee and relocate elsewhere.

Not a valid comparison no matter what way you slice it.

Sy: That was back when our local Economy was as dependant on Morrells as Detroit’s was on Autos.

I’ll go ahead and disagree with this point as well. Our local economy has never been dependent upon a single employer (or industry) to the level Detroit has been. Unless of course you want to put up some real numbers to back up that statement, I’m going ahead and raising the BS flag yet again.

Sy: I’ve floated multiple cities as comparisons, both bigger & smaller than SF. Like I told Scott, you got a better one I’m all ears.

And some of the comparisons to Fargo or Sioux City are valid, but this particular comparison to Detroit is totally out of left field. We have nothing in common with that city, their problems have nothing to do with a declining downtown nor do they have anything to do with an Events Center.

Sy: If not, than you can either man up and cede the point (let’s all hold our breath on that one) or you can go down your typical, worn out road of offering nothing to the conversation.

Cede what point exactly? That your comparison is somehow valid? Sorry Sy… but it was a horrible example and now that it has been pointed out to you it seems your defense is to just get pissy. Man up for a change – just admit Detroit was a horrible example and move on.

Sy: Or maybe you’d like to explain how Sioux Falls is so special that it’s beyond comparision to anywhere?

I don’t recall saying that, but nice try. The real fact is Sioux Falls is unique and we don’t share every characteristic with any city in America. Sure we have a lot in common with Sioux City, we have a lot in common with Des Moines and a lot in common with Fargo or pretty much any other city in the Midwest that is within 30% of our population, but having things in common really doesn’t mean a damn thing because what works for someone else might not work for us.

For every city you cite which has built a successful events center we can find one that didn’t and yet is still going strong or one that bungled a new arena or events center or stadium and ended up regretting the decision for decades.

So be it – but that is why such comparisons will never really tell the whole story. All of that being said – I still think your attempt to compare us to Detroit was by far the worst comparison yet. We have more in common with Mitchell or Yankton than we ever will with Detroit.

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