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Trustees from the South Dakota Department of Corrections Yankton Minimum Unit install the new bleachers Wednesday at the Horseman’s Sports Arena north of Mitchell. (Sean Ryan/Republic)

Inmates work to finish newest rodeo bleacher

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Inmates work to finish newest rodeo bleacher
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Five men in orange shirts attached seats to the metal frame of the newest bleacher at Horseman's Sports Arena on Wednesday in Mitchell.

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All the men are inmates at a minimum security unit in Yankton, and they've worked for five days in the last two weeks to finish work on the metal bleacher, the newest of three metal bleachers installed in recent years at the venue, which each summer hosts the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo.

Jim Miskimins, chairman of the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo Committee and the state's attorney for Davison County, said the inmates' work saved time for the rodeo committee's volunteers, who would normally do the work in their spare time.

"They've done a fabulous job," he said. "We really appreciate their contributions."

Miskimins said the construction of the newest metal bleacher, located on the southwest side of the venue, was expected to be nearly done by the end of the day Wednesday. It's the latest bleacher to be built in place of the venue's aging, wooden bleachers, which have now all been demolished.

A smaller, metal bleacher to replace a where a wooden bleacher formerly sat on the southeast side of the venue was donated by H&R Salvage, of Mitchell, and will be moved to the venue in the near future, Miskimins said.

"There may be a few odd things to finalize, but it's going to be nearly finished when they roll away," he said, referring to the inmates.

The new bleacher will include 20 rows of seats -- compared to the 12 rows of seats in the old, wooden bleacher -- and be 129 feet long, which means hundreds of seats will be added to the arena, Miskimins said.

"These bleachers are sturdy and solid and don't have the gaps that might allow someone to slip or fall," he said.

Miskimins said the cost of the newest bleacher will be about $150,000, of which $75,000 will be paid with a contribution from the city of Mitchell. The remainder will be paid for with money from the rodeo committee's savings. The first two metal bleachers built at the venue cost a total of about $200,000.

"We're really excited because the completion of the project will allow us to save a lot of time, effort and expense we've incurred annually to maintain the wooden bleachers," Miskimins said.

Lance Carson, a longtime committee member and former chairman, said the wooden bleachers cost an average of $14,000 annually to maintain.

"Now that will be something we won't have to work at every year," Carson said. "Seeing the wooden bleachers go is a blessing."

As the new, large bleacher went up, work was also done to replace and move the fence on the east side of the venue, Miskimins said.

With the completion of the new bleachers, Miskimins said any further long-term planning for improvements to the arena will be put on hold until after this year's rodeo, which is scheduled for July 17-20.

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