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Mitchell loses another state tournament

Say goodbye to another state tournament, Mitchell.

The city’s Corn Palace will no longer host the high school competitive cheer and dance state meet later this year, because the city does not meet new guidelines set by the South Dakota High School Activities Association.

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“We hope this wasn’t received as a threat,” SDHSAA Executive Director Wayne Carney said. “What we tried to do is show our people — the ones who have put in for state events — what our guidelines are.”

Staff for the activities association released a report Wednesday showing the deficiencies some communities have as state meet and state tournament hosts. Based on the report, Mitchell was previously eligible but no longer meets the guidelines to host state competitive cheer and dance, state soccer and all-state band. Fifteen communities received deficiency marks in one to as many as eight events.

The deficiencies attached to the 15 cities include not having enough hotel rooms, not having enough seating in venues and not having enough restaurants open to feed competitors, among others. The activities association guidelines were updated at the beginning of this calendar year. In the case of Mitchell and the cheer and dance event, the Corn Palace does not have enough seating to satisfy the new guidelines.

Some of the sites that received deficiency marks have been staples of past state tournaments, including Aberdeen’s Barnett Center for state wrestling and the Huron Arena for some of the smaller-class state basketball tournaments. Both of those sites are scheduled to host state tournaments this year and will keep them. But neither has contracts for state tournaments in those sports beyond this year, leaving their future as host sites for state events in question.

Any school district can submit a request to host any state tournament. The activities association staff looks at the guidelines it has set for hotels, parking and venues to see if the guidelines are met. Carney said in his 13 years as executive director, the board has never voted on or helped assemble the guidelines for hosting state tournaments. However, some board members showed support for making that change during a meeting Wednesday when the report was released.

Carney acknowledged the eight-member board of directors, which oversees Carney and the staff, ultimately has final say where state tournaments are held. The board could select a state tournament site despite the executive staff’s guideline-based recommendation.

Mitchell was scheduled to host the Class A and Class AA state competitive cheer and dance event Oct. 24-25 at the Corn Palace. The school won its first-ever bid to host the state cheer and dance meet three years ago. Now, the meet will be in Watertown.

Mitchell competitive cheer coach Angie Sivertsen was surprised to hear the news Thursday from The Daily Republic.

“The team will be especially upset because they were excited to host state so their families and friends could watch them participate,” she said.

When Mitchell was awarded the contract to host the state meet, the guideline at the time stated that venues should have a capacity of at least 1,500 people. The Corn Palace’s raised seating area holds 1,772 people, and the bleachers above the floor can hold another 650 for a capacity of 2,422.

Mitchell Activities Director Geoff Gross attended last year’s state competitive cheer and dance meet in Rapid City, which had a peak attendance of about 2,400 people. The new guidelines state that to hold a state cheer and dance meet, a venue should have a seating capacity of 2,700.

“Our initial thoughts are anytime we lose an event or an event is unable to come to the Corn Palace like state cheer and dance, we’re disappointed,” Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling said. “When we first bid and put in for this, the attendance was much smaller and it was a one-day event. But cheer and dance has really grown in South Dakota and now it’s a two-day event.”

Carney explained the Mitchell School District and Gross were asked to give up hosting the state tournament, but “no one is upset with Mitchell, and obviously Geoff and the Mitchell School District would do a great job hosting.”

Yankton was scheduled to host the state cheer and dance meet in 2015. But like Mitchell, Yankton gave up hosting the meet because of insufficient seating.

Mitchell has also hosted the state soccer tournament in recent years with its new Pepsi Cola Soccer Complex and is scheduled to again later this year and in 2015. That will not change, Carney said.

The city no longer meets the guidelines to hold the state soccer tournament in the future, however, because preference is “given to fields with artificial turf,” the guideline manual says. That was a recommendation by the state soccer committee.

He added any venue that has already been approved to host a state tournament or meet will still host it, unless it agrees to give it up.

“I hate to use the term ‘lost,’ because no one in essence lost a state tournament,” Carney said. “We have events in some cities that we do not as a staff recommend to hold state events.”

According to the guidelines, Mitchell is eligible to host the following state tournaments and meets in the future: Class AA golf; cross country; any one of the three classes of volleyball; Class B golf; oral interpretation; and debate. Mitchell was formerly a host of state basketball tournaments but no longer meets the guidelines for any class of state basketball tournament, boys’ or girls’.