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Corn Palace attendance dips during renovation

With work happening on a two-phase, nearly $7.2 million renovation of the Corn Palace, attendance at the city-owned tourist attraction dropped significantly in July when compared to last year.

A total of 73,417 people visited the Corn Palace in July, according to the Mitchell Convention and Visitors Bureau. That's down 9,305 visitors from July 2013, when 82,722 people visited the city-owned tourist attraction.

From June 16 to Tuesday, a total of 116,574 people visited the Corn Palace. But tracking the number of visitors is difficult amid the renovation process, and all of the totals are simply estimates, according to Katie Knutson, the CVB's marketing coordinator.

The Corn Palace's main entrance -- where turnstiles have traditionally kept count of visitors -- was closed in June, shortly after work began. Visitors now enter through a temporary entrance on the south side of the building.

Without turnstiles, greeters working at the Corn Palace have used hand-held tally counters to manually track the number of visitors. Often times, it can be difficult for greeters to help visitors and keep a count at the same time, Knutson said.

In contrast with the visitor numbers, sales at the Corn Palace's summertime gift shop were up by about $50,000 in July when compared to last year, according to Dale Odegaard, the man in charge of the gift shop.

Visitors at the gift shop consistently ask about the ongoing renovation, but the vast majority don't express any frustration or dissatisfaction about the construction, Odegaard said.

"There hasn't been any confusion, and it seems like nobody is really disappointed," he said.

Last year, 240,454 people visited the Corn Palace from May to August. That was s a 2.1 percent increase from 2012, when 235,530 people visited, and a 5.1 percent increase from 2011, when 228,850 visited.

All those totals are still below the levels from 2009 and 2010, when visitor totals were 270,663 and 271,051, respectively. All of the totals represent the number of visitors who came to the Corn Palace from May to August, but exclude visitors who came for special events, such as festivals or concerts.