Mayor TenHaken proposes extra penny sales tax to pay for stadium nobody wants

If you watch the mayor and representatives from the Riverline District speak at the Downtown Rotary meeting on Monday they seem to be pushing an agenda that the public needs to be SOLD on the idea that we need some kind of sports recreation facility at the location even though the online comments have been strongly against building a stadium in the area.

Once again, supposed leaders in our community know better (that’s how we ended up with an events center in the middle of nowhere) and they seemingly want to just ignore the actual opinion of residents and push another narrative that just doesn’t exist.

One of the panelists said in reference to the negative online comments against a stadium downtown that she wishes the people who approach her in public like at the grocery store (the famous line) and say they want a stadium would express those feelings online. Are Sioux Falls voters really that naive to continue to believe the grocery store poll? Maybe the reason they don’t comment online is that they don’t really exist? And why are people so opinionated at the grocery store?

The group admitted there is challenges in the area including one of the busiest train lines in the city running through it. There is also NO mention of the water issues from Drake Springs (one of the reasons the new Drake Springs pool was built to the North).

Another tidbit that was revealed at the meeting was that earnest money and a purchase agreement has been already drawn up for the land at a cost of around $9 million. What was unclear is where this $9 million was coming from and the mayor leaned towards the taxpayers of Sioux Falls would be picking up the tab. At this point not one single city councilor has spoken publicly in favor or against the project. Where is our legislative policy body on this project? Apparently in the dark. The council is turning into the old dog chained up in the basement. Maybe we should let them roam around the aisles of Sioux Falls grocery stores so they can get a real pulse on what is going on in Sioux Falls 🙁

Remember, this has all been concocted behind closed doors and maybe the reason there is very little buy in from the public is the public hasn’t been involved or informed up until this point. How did we go from 0-60 in a couple of weeks? Because this has been planned in very dark board rooms for months.

But the whopper of the day was when Mayor TenHaken suggested we do like Oklahoma City and propose an extra penny sales tax to pay for a stadium (that nobody wants);

“We are a low-tax state, and we do not have a lot of revenue sources,” he said as he gave potential examples. “I’m nervous, we’re talking about all this. But a baseball stadium’s $80 million, you want an indoor recreation space with 100,000 square feet, that’s $40 million. We’re at $150 million. How are we going to pay for this? No idea.”

First the obvious. Once an extra sales tax is approved, it never goes away or sunsets this is an incredible myth. We only have to look towards the Washington Pavilion and the 3rd penny sales tax on entertainment which was supposed to be sunsetted after the bonds were paid off, they have never gone away, and as of November 2022 the tax raised over $9 million last year. In other words, there is plenty of money in existing coffers to pay off bonds without creating a new tax. I have suggested for years that the 3rd penny be used to pay down bonds on the EC and other facilities instead we squander it on decorations for a roof that nobody looks up at.

But what makes the proposal even more troubling is this;

TenHaken compared the program to a local option sales tax, though didn’t say if he’d want to see the funds overseen by a citizen advisory board, as is done in Oklahoma City.

TenHaken isn’t comparing apples to apples with Oklahoma City which has the public weigh in heavily on the extra tax proposals with extensive public engagement and a public vote (which should be 60% in South Dakota with a taxing/bonding proposal instead of a non-binding ‘advisory vote’ like we did with the EC). Remember, the city council approved the bonding on the EC, not the voters.

What was even more startling was how the panel didn’t seem to concerned about selling the public on their idea.

I go by the old adage that if you have to be sold something you probably don’t need it. It seems the Riverline District reps and the mayor want to sell us on a project they really want (and all of the tax incentives the taxpayers will provide) but the public isn’t to keen on.

I support redeveloping the area, but the city should really only be involved with infrastructure upgrades like utilities, streets and green spaces (not facilities) and let the private sector determine it’s best purpose (which should be housing).

Leave it to an authoritarian like TenHaken to take the beneficial aspects of a bonding proposal and manipulate it to hoodwink Sioux Falls voters into approving another play palace we don’t need.


#1 Very Stable Genius on 02.14.23 at 12:37 pm

Why can’t we just use that extra penny for roads for this? That penny has been used for other things as well.

#2 Downtown Walking Enthusiast on 02.14.23 at 12:38 pm

Can we get the city of Sioux Falls to at least get rid of the 3 inch thick ice on the 10th street viaduct “sidewalk” to at least access the “Riverline Stadium”?

#3 Johnny Roastbeff on 02.14.23 at 1:43 pm

This comment…

“The survey asks us to dream but a stadium is not our dream it is Canaries owner dream”

Got over 800 likes in 12 days? Is someone cooking the books?

#4 D@ily Spin on 02.14.23 at 2:04 pm

It’s looking more and more like people should move outside city limits. There’s no control on spending and sales tax increases one percent almost annually. Outlying communities spend on infrastructure and let Sioux Falls waste for play palaces. Do you want to pay tax for a minor league baseball game you might attend once a year. Move and not use the shopping malls. Tax and price is lower from Amazon. Californians are evacuating to come here. They quickly learn to locate where they have a voice in government outside from the major city barrier. Move now before property value plummets and infrastructure fails.

#5 Mike Lee Zitterich on 02.14.23 at 3:13 pm

The second penny is used by the city for “New” Roads, Infrastructure, Buildings, Water and Sewer Systems, Electric Grid, etc. 28.2% of the current revenue is tied to the Debt (bonds). State Law determines what the 2nd Penny can be used for, 99.9% New Things Needed by the City.

I have said for years, that the 2nd Penny can be cut at anytime to help people, but wont happen until the debt is paid in full.

A Third Penny would have to be approved by the Legislature. I suppose the mayor could propose utilizing the “Entertainment Tax” to fund the Project, but that only currently generates 8 to 10 million per year, and is used genuinely to support the maintenance of our entertainment sector.

It was a third penny sales tax that was proposed to build the “Denny” but the Legislature nixed that plan pronto.

My suggestion, if we are not going to plan to build the ball park for a few years, we could set aside $99 million over the next 5 years, with the goal to spend it in 2029 to build the ball park, there is no need to rush the project…

#6 Freida on 02.14.23 at 4:09 pm

Hard pass. It’s not like the canaries have a huge draw for a crowd.

#7 Fear & Loathing in Sioux Falls on 02.14.23 at 5:33 pm

Would this be a good time for a canary in the coal mine joke or analogy?

#8 Steve on 02.14.23 at 5:40 pm

Has this Mayor ever tried to complete something before starting something new? It’s time for this Council to wake up and yank the reins from this guy. Perhaps some of his wanted spending spree dollars should be held on to for probable cost overruns on his special bridge project or the parking bunker. Another penny tax is just a laughable desire that should be stopped now.

#9 Scott D Hudson on 02.14.23 at 7:00 pm

OMG the Canaries play in a minor league so small it’s not even affiliated with MLB. It’s the bottom of the bottom. And they want to build a stadium for them? Have they seen how few people attend these games? I guess the only good thing that would come out of it is that the Bunker Ramp would no longer be the worst spending decision ever made by our local government.

#10 The Guy From Guernsey on 02.14.23 at 7:15 pm

Anybody have video?
Let’s get it to Pat Powers. He loves to feature in his blog the words of big spending liberals like TenHaken as they are spoken at presentations to the Downtown Rotary.

#11 scott on 02.14.23 at 8:31 pm

the city can’t even sell advertising at the premier center, as noted by the blacked out signs inside the building.

#12 Team Santos on 02.15.23 at 7:48 am

I’m always suspicious of governments that want to build stadiums. Because you know, the commies like to do those sort of things. AND, that’s because they would rather have us concentrate on things like baseball or gymnastics, than verbal or written expressions.

#13 Mike Lee Zitterich on 02.15.23 at 10:00 pm

I do not have an issue with the Third Penny Sales Tax, the problem will come when the City attempts to lobby the Legislature to allow Municipalities to adopt such a tax. Even if the legislature adopts a new law, it would come with restrictions, and even then, the People of the City would have to vote on such a proposal. That is where it gets tricky, cause the charter calls for a 60% “VOTE” to create the tax. So it would not be easy.

#14 Say It Ain't So, Joe! on 02.16.23 at 2:31 pm

Many in Pierre want to cut the food tax, while some in Su Fu want to raise our sales tax. Just because we have some local food deserts doesn’t mean that people aren’t hungry. Or, would a $9 Chicago Dog at the new Canary Stadium cut the mustard for most?

#15 Corn Dogger on 02.16.23 at 10:02 pm

We live in a low tax state? Really? My property taxes just hit 6,000 a year! 12% hike or higher for 5 consecutive years. Much higher than many places in the US. We also pay much higher rates for healthcare and have very beefy sales tax rates. The “SD has low taxes” is a bunch of BS

#16 VSG on 02.17.23 at 11:49 am

Yes, property taxes are going up again. Maybe it’s time to up the state’s take from video lottery to say, 70%….. #RestInPeaceWildBill