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Council to consider leasing city land for new Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo location

The land that the city would lease for the annual Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo, which draws around 8,000 to 10,000 each summer in late July, is located along Airport Road adjacent to the Mitchell Airport on the north side of the city.

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Scenes from final night of the 50th annual Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo on July 18 at Horseman's Sports Arena. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

The Mitchell City Council will consider a pair of resolutions on Monday to allow leasing a piece of land that's intended to become the new location of the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo.

According to City Attorney Justin Johnson’s memo to the council, the land that the city is considering leasing to the local rodeo organization for the annual Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo, which draws around 8,000 to 10,000 each summer in late July, is located along Airport Road adjacent to the Mitchell Airport on the north side of the city. While the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo has been held at the Horseman’s Sports Arena, located along north Highway 37 near Lake Mitchell, for several decades, Corn Palace Stampede Inc. -- the group that organizes the event -- has been in a legal dispute with its landlord of the rodeo grounds over the past year.

The lawsuit that was filed by Corn Palace Stampede Inc. alleges that Horsemen’s Sports Inc. -- the organization that leases the current rodeo grounds to the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo group -- destroyed and damaged Corn Palace Stampede’s property, among other things. Despite the ongoing legal dispute, the 50th annual Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo went on as planned in late July at Horseman’s Sports Arena.

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Scenes from final night of the 50th annual Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo on July 18 at Horseman's Sports Arena. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

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Considering the lawsuit is still ongoing, the council will vote during Monday’s special meeting to approve an indemnification agreement that stipulates the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo group must agree to indemnify the city of Mitchell, or “hold harmless” from anything arising out of the lawsuit between Corn Palace Stampede Inc. and Horseman’s Sports organization.

The indemnification agreement also paves the way for the city to formally discuss leasing the 5971 Airport Road property to the local rodeo group for future rodeo events. Johnson noted both the city, and the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo group “believe this Indemnification Agreement is necessary given that Corn Palace Stampede, Inc. is currently engaged in a lawsuit regarding an existing lease.”

According to Johnson’s memo, the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo committee reached out to the city recently, inquiring about new potential locations the group could lease from the city to host Mitchell’s annual rodeo.

Although the city has begun preliminary discussions with the rodeo organization about a potential lease location next to the airport, Johnson noted in his memo that “negotiations over terms have not begun and will not until the indemnification agreement is approved.”

In the complaint, the rodeo committee wrote that its board of directors adopted a resolution on Sept. 1 authorizing the start of litigation against Horsemen’s Sports. The complaint alleges a breach of contract, unjust enrichment, intentional property damage and seeks a permanent injunction and declaratory judgment.

The lawsuit doesn’t specifically list what property was damaged and destroyed. The complaint seeks a jury trial in the case and requests damages and costs for the property being destroyed.

In October 2020, Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo Committee Chairman Jim Miskimins declined to comment on the contents of the lawsuit. Miskimins is also Davison County state's attorney. The claim says the plaintiff — Corn Palace Stampede Inc. — has “created, provided and done all improvements on the property, at its own expense and efforts.” The suit says that there is no severance agreement between Corn Palace Stampede and Horsemen’s Sports about those improvements.

“Defendants members and agents, and defendants personally have trespassed on the property; they have interfered with Plaintiff’s quiet and peaceful enjoyment and use of the property under the lease agreement; they have damaged Plaintiff’s property without cause; they have interfered with Plaintiff’s ability to use the property for the purpose for which it was intended,” the suit claims.

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In the lease agreement, which started in 2000 and was continued for another 20 years in 2011, Corn Palace Stampede agrees to care for and maintain the rodeo grounds in its entirety. Corn Palace Stampede also has ownership of a loader tractor that is kept on the grounds and Horsemen’s Sports can use it and will furnish fuel.

Currently, Corn Palace Stampede pays Horsemen’s Sports $2,000 a year from 2017 to 2021, up from $1,500 a year from 2012 to 2016.

If the council approves the indemnification agreement and resolution of intent to lease the Airport Road property to the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo group during Monday’s meeting, it would advance the possibility of the rodeo finding a new home about a mile north from where it’s been hosted for several decades.

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Scenes from final night of the 50th annual Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo on July 18 at Horseman's Sports Arena. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

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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