County fairgrounds eyed as sports complex

The Avera Queen of Peace sports enhancement outreach coordinator wants to use the Davison County Fairgrounds building as a part-time, multi-use sports facility.

The Avera Queen of Peace sports enhancement outreach coordinator wants to use the Davison County Fairgrounds building as a part-time, multi-use sports facility.

Local resident Scott Houwman, of Avera University Physical Therapy, told the Davison County commissioners Tuesday there there’s a shortage of facilities in town for athletes to practice during fall and winter.

“We have this incredibly nice space, and it is underutilized,” Houwman said at a regular commission meeting at the courthouse in Mitchell. “What I’m exploring with you is, how can we work to figure out a relationship where we could utilize the space you have with the county building to try to put a program together for our youth in this area that could meet some of those needs in terms of wellness and athletic participation?”

Houwman’s proposal is in its exploratory phase, but he wants to add batting cages, netting around the building’s advertisements and artificial turf, which is used for running. All of the equipment added would stay in the building but could be hidden, lifted or removed when other events are in progress.

The commissioners took no action Tuesday, but referred Houwman to meet with Mark Ruml, the county’s maintenance supervisor who oversees the building, and Judy Rowley, Davison County’s Extension office administrative assistant, to continue pursuing the proposal.


Houwman showed the commissioners photos of the Sanford Pentagon, the Sanford Power Center and the Avera Sports Institute - all athletic training facilities in Sioux Falls - and explained that Mitchell athletes do not have the same type of accommodations to use during the offseason.

He wants to use the building specifically for baseball and softball, but added indoor soccer, volleyball, competitive cheer, tennis and football could be possibilities.

The fairgrounds building, which has a 15,000-square-foot activity center, hosts agriculture-related youth and 4-H activities, meetings, shows, exhibits, auctions, rummages, flea markets, receptions and family reunions. Houwman said the facility would be able to continue hosting all of those events and become an athletic training facility as well.

“We’re trying to explore all options,” Houwman said. “But we don’t want to interfere with anybody or the purpose of this building, which is for 4-H.

“What we’re asking our coaches in this community and the surrounding area that looks to Mitchell is to help find the facilities they need keep our kids competitive.”

Gerald Weiss, who’s on the fair board and is a county commissioner, said he’s interested in how Houwman’s proposal will turn out.

“I really would like to see it go because anything we can do for our young people, I’m 100 percent for that,” Weiss said. “If we can work it out and they can work it out to get nets in there that can be moved, that would be great.”

The facility was used for athletics as recently as the winter of 2012. Mitchell’s fast-pitch softball team used the activity center for batting practice and the Mitchell baseball teams have also used it in the past.


Houwman said when the Mitchell Legion baseball team used it, the batting cage was too bulky to put away easily. Now, he’s looking into ways the cage can be removed or moved out of the way when athletic practices are not in progress. Houwman met with Ruml after the meeting at the fairgrounds and looked at how the building could be changed to allow hiding a cage.

Houwman discussed rental costs of the fairgrounds building with the commissioners, saying he’d like to work out a monthly fee because the daily rates would be too high. To rent the activity center costs $350 for an entire day’s use. The fair board, which sets the usage rates for the facility, plans to meet with Houwman on Monday.

In the past five years, the highest amount of income from the building has been $20,751, which came in 2008. This year, the income has been about $23,600 to date.

“I’m not looking, and I don’t believe Avera Queen of Peace is looking, to make any revenue or profit off this,” Houwman said. “We are looking to cover our expenses or costs, because there would be a significant input into the building.”

All the commissioners who were present, John Claggett, Denny Kiner, Kim Weitala and Weiss, all showed interest in the proposal. Houwman later said by phone he’s asking anyone interested in the project to contact him.

“We’re going to have to look at all the different players and do the research before this comes together,” Claggett said. “We’re always interested in figuring out the viabilities.”

When notified of Houwman’s proposal, Mitchell baseball coach Luke Norden explained he’s always “leery of using something that’s not yours.”

“There are always questions about things you’re going to share and who would set that up,” he said. “We’d have to see guidelines of how it would work.”


Other business

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners:

  • Heard Natalie Piehl, an employee at Poet, request a raffle to help fund a mission trip to Kenya, but took no action.
  • Sitting as the board of adjustment, granted approval to Todd Maeschen for a variance to construct two grain bins 65 feet from the west property line at the northwest quarter of Section 22, Township 101 North, Range 61 West, Tobin Township.
  • Sitting as the board of adjustment, granted approval to Shirley Bowman for a variance to construct a garage 65 feet from the south property line at Lot A Less H-1 in the southeast quarter of Section 17, Township 104 North, Range 60 West, Perry Township.
  • Heard Rick Kriese, an instructor at Mitchell Technical Institute, and four students who were present thank the county for allowing them to use land for educational purposes and reported the 35.5 acres of corn averaged 165.65 bushels an acre and the 44.1 acres of soybeans averaged 44.08 bushels an acre, which all brought the county an income of about $11,700 from the crop sharing agreement.
  • Denied a request for a reduction in rates for fairgrounds complex usage by Dorothy Deinert and the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, with Claggett saying, “If we change them for one group, we’d have to change them for everyone.”
  • Approved an agreement with the Brown County Juvenile Detention Center as a supplemental space to house juveniles at a rate of $220 for each prison-day that the detention center houses and maintains a prisoner from Davison County.
  • Approved the Davison County Sheriff’s Office jail contract at $86 per prisoner day to house and maintain a prisoner from another county.
  • Announced Commissioner Randy Reider was absent.
Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at
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