OUR VIEW: If $35M is too much, what to do about the Corn Palace?We’re still left, after all, with dwindling visitation at the Corn Palace. As a tourist attraction, its appeal is still fading.
Reaction to the $35 million vision for a renovated and expanded Corn Palace has been swift and nearly unanimous in its concern for the hefty price tag.
At dinner tables, coffee gatherings, barbershops and official public-input sessions, we’ve heard it again and again: $35 million is way too much.
All of that talk has largely deflated the balloon of public excitement that had briefly swollen. Perhaps the clearest evidence of that is the lack of any significant discussion of the vision at either of the two City Council meetings since the vision was announced. If council members and their constituents really liked the plan, they’d have gotten it on the agenda by now.
And even those who are in support of the vision have no concrete method in mind to fully fund the project.
So it would seem at this point that a $35 million project to improve the Corn Palace is dead on arrival. That seems to be the political reality.
What, then should city leaders do? We’re still left, after all, with dwindling visitation at the Corn Palace. As a tourist attraction, its appeal is still fading.
We think it’s time for the Chamber of Commerce committee that presented the vision and the City Council to come together for some serious, public conversation. Both sides should attempt to identify the most important, viable and affordable aspects of the vision, and they should move forward quickly with a scaled-down plan.
If that’s not done, there is a serious risk of the “vision” being tossed on a shelf to collect dust with innumerable other packets, booklets, architectural renderings, recommendations and other such documents assembled over the years in the name of Corn Palace improvement.
There are some aspects of the recently unveiled vision that citizens might support and the city could afford.
Expanding the seating capacity of the Palace seems unnecessary, because the proposed expansion would not bring any more state tournaments to Mitchell, and the city doesn’t really need the seats for anything else, given the Palace rarely fills to capacity with its current configuration.
We don’t know how much cost that would chop from the plan, but it might be a good first cut.
The details right now aren’t as important as the recognition by city leaders that if they don’t act fast, they’ll lose all momentum and nothing will be accomplished.
Some of the vision can be salvaged. We hope our city leaders listen to the feedback offered so far, adjust accordingly, and press forward with something that a majority of this city’s residents can support.