Architects say Corn Palace's building footprint must expand to reach around 5,000 seats

While city leaders’ initial goal was to expand seating within the existing footprint of the building, architect Robin Miller said it would reduce the existing seating capacity by about 1,000.

Plans for the Corn Palace hang inside the council chambers inside city hall. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

After locals weighed in on design plans for a potential interior renovation of the Corn Palace, none of them stood out as a “clear favorite.”

But architect Robin Miller said one thing is clear: “the footprint of the building has to expand” to reach the goal of around 5,000 seats.

Giovanni Lanier was among the Mitchell residents who picked his favorite interior renovation design options at the Dec. 7 meeting that was open to the public. Lanier pointed to the designs that would make way for three basketball courts and replace the soft seats on the west side of the court with retractable seats as the “most ideal” options.

“I love the idea of three courts and having retractable seats on both sides of the court because it would open up so many more events and opportunities for the Corn Palace to host,” said Lanier, who is a new member of the Corn Palace Entertainment Board. “We could bring AAU tournaments and youth tournaments if we add the courts as well, which we haven’t been able to do with having just the one court like we do now.”

The public meeting was part of the city’s $120,000 study on the Corn Palace that’s aiming to expand the seating and floor space inside Mitchell’s largest event venue. The architects provided five design options for the attendees to consider.


Architects with Schemmer and Convergence Design are leading the study. With the feedback from the recent meeting, David Greusel, a longtime architect who has designed several Major League Baseball parks, and Miller, are in the process of advancing the designs for the City Council to consider, if the eight-person governing body decides to pursue such a project.

Although there weren’t any design options that emerged as a clear favorite, Miller said replacing all of the existing seating with retractable seats stood out as a shared goal among the residents who weighed in on the design plans. Adding two full-size basketball courts was another ideal option that was a popular feature.

“Not having a clear consensus on design options gives us a bit of flexibility. We found out getting three basketball courts is ideal,” Miller said. “The direction is to get up to 5,000 seats. And the dual level and premium seating options seem to be popular.”

To make way for around 5,000 seats, which would open the Corn Palace up to host high school girl’s basketball state tournaments, Miller said the footprint of the building would “definitely” need to expand. One of the options to expand the building’s footprint entails adding on to the north side of the building, where City Hall is located.

“If we expand toward the east, it would allow for the three courts and back of house things that are needed for today’s sports and entertainment events,” Miller said. “We could create a loading station area next to the north addition, which would be a much better place for buses to park and unload.”

While city leaders’ initial goal was to expand seating within the existing footprint of the building, Miller said it would significantly reduce seating capacity. One design option that stayed within the existing footprint of the building would reduce seating to around 2,600, nearly 1,000 less than the current 3,500 capacity.

Mitchell City Council President Kevin McCardle said the design that stayed within the building’s footprint would be a counterproductive option to consider since the main goal of exploring renovation ideas is to add seats and floor space.

“We have to accept the fact that we will need to expand the building footprint to bring more events to the Palace,” he said. “If we try to stay within the footprint, we will be putting money in to not see any additional revenue. Nobody wants that.”


Regardless of which designs the architects run with, Miller said there is a clear consensus around addressing the “bad” angles of the old soft seats on the west side of the court. All of the design options entailed raising the pitch of the soft seats to make for a better spectator experience.

“You can’t see some of the action when you sit on the corners of the soft seats, but raising the pitch with the retractable seats would eliminate that problem,” Miller said.

Several other features that stood out to the group of residents who weighed in on the design options were VIP-style suites and balcony seating options.

While the ongoing project has yet to reveal any rough costs of interior renovation plans, the team of architects will determine price estimates of the final designs over the next few months. City officials will then be able to consider whether to advance a particular design option.

“We will get the design options developed enough hopefully by late January or early February. We will have the cost estimates at that time, as well as the engineering input on the feasibility of the designs,” Miller said.

As Mayor Bob Everson put it, moving forward with one of the design options will hinge on the cost and funding sources. By getting the community involved in the process, Everson has been able to gauge the interest in taking on an interior renovation project. So far, Everson said the community support has been "quite strong.”

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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