An architectural engineering firm was tabbed on Tuesday to study the interior of the Corn Palace to provide the city with key information for its goal to expand seating.

During Tuesday's meeting, the Mitchell City Council approved selecting Schemmer, a Sioux Falls-based architectural engineering firm, to take on the roughly $120,000 study on the interior of Mitchell’s biggest tourist attraction. Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson said the project is estimated to take roughly four months to complete.

“The process will include data collection, stakeholder meetings, developing alternatives and providing findings, which include cost estimates,” Everson said.

Schemmer was one of four architectural engineering firms that pitched statements of interests to lead the design and planning portion of the Corn Palace interior remodel and renovation project.

The main goal that’s driving the city’s interest in exploring a renovation project for the Corn Palace centers around expanding seating and floorspace. Although the landmark building hosts big events on an annual basis, including high school and college sports games and concerts, Everson is striving to make it into an even bigger venue that can attract state high school basketball tournaments and dart events, to name a few. To do that, he said seating capacity has to be expanded to hold closer to 5,000 people.

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As of now, the Corn Palace has a maximum seating capacity of 3,500. As part of Schemmer’s study, Everson said it will help identify ways the city can renovate the Corn Palace and add enough seats to come closer to a capacity of 5,000.

“Schemmer’s study will look at renovating the current space as is to maximize space, seating and other improvements, which would enhance the Corn Palace. They will also study the possibility of expanding the Corn Palace,” Everson said. “But the focus of the study is maximizing space and seating.”

While the city found its firm to begin planning and developing ideas for interior renovations, the council has yet to approve a Corn Palace renovation and remodeling project.

For the actual renovation project to move forward, it would hinge on the council’s approval and include weighing public input. However, with the council’s approval to allow Schemmer to conduct a study on the building shows signs of growing support for future renovation.

After reviewing the statement of interests from the four firms that pitched proposals to the city earlier this summer, Everson said the consensus among them was that the stage on the east side of the building needs to go to maximize the seating and space.

With the corn decorated murals speckled along the interior of the Corn Palace, overlooking the basketball court, Everson noted the goal is to “preserve the indoor murals.”

Public Works Director Joe Schroeder said Schemmer will also develop alternative renovation plans for the council to consider.

Schroeder said the stakeholder meetings that will be included in Schemmer’s study will entail meeting with residents to get feedback on renovation plans.

“They seem like a great group for this project, and they will give us some viable options to pick from if you wish,” Schroeder said. “Their schedule looks aggressive.”

According to City Administrator Stephanie Ellwein, the study will be funded through the city's entertainment tax fund reserves and revenue received in 2021 that's over the 2021 budget.