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'It's been tough': City leaders facing challenges to fund multimillion-dollar Corn Palace expansion project

“Construction costs are only going up from here on out from what it looks like. The sooner we can get this rolling, the cheaper it will be for us to do,” Councilman Kevin McCardle said of the estimated $40 million project.

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Mayor Bob Everson, right, follows along as David Greusel, of Convergence Design, points out features in Plan A of Corn Palace renovations during a city council work session in January.
Mitchell Republic file photo
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MITCHELL — Now that the designs to expand the Corn Palace are complete, city leaders are tasked with finding ways to fund the multi-million dollar project.

So far, that’s been a challenging process, Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson said.

“It’s been tough. We are continuing to look for potential funding sources from the private sector, and hopefully it can all come together,” Everson said of the project.

After architects spent several months this past winter developing expansion design options for the Mitchell City Council to consider, two of the three designs presented in January were estimated to cost around $40 million.

The city is seeking to fund the project through private donations and sponsorships. But there have yet to be any big donors and sponsors to come through on committing a large amount of funds needed for the city to take on a Corn Palace expansion project.

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Expanding the Corn Palace has come into focus among city leaders over the past year, as they look for ways to bring larger-scale events to Mitchell’s biggest venue. The city hired a pair of architects — David Greusel and Robin Miller — to drum up several design options that would expand the Corn Palace and the seating capacity, which currently holds 3,500 people.

Some of the most notable features of the two designs — option B and option C — entailed adding on to the north side of the building where City Hall's parking lot is located, increasing floor space for a total of three basketball courts and replacing all of the existing seats with retractable seating. If the designs were to come to fruition, it could increase the Corn Palace’s seating by about 1,000 and bring balcony seats and VIP lounge areas where food and beverages could be served during sports games and events.

“Some significant things in option B would be adding footprint on the east side of the building, and we’re also adding footprint by proposing a new structure that would be located on the current north parking lot,” Greusel said, noting the new structure on the north side of the building would be capable of holding the city’s offices. "You could have a VIP club lounge with a view of the event floor, where you could have higher end food and beverage services.”

Although funding challenges are standing in the way of the costly project from taking off, Council President Kevin McCardle is optimistic about the Corn Palace expansion plan.

“I’m hopeful we’ll see some big support for this and get the funding together,” he said.

Fans watch the action at the 2016 Corn Palace Challenge at the Corn Palace. (Republic file photo)
Fans watch the action at the 2016 Corn Palace Challenge at the Corn Palace.
Republic

With construction costs and building materials increasing at a rapid pace, McCardle said it would be ideal to get the project started “as soon as possible.”

“Construction costs are only going up from here on out from what it looks like. The sooner we can get this rolling, the cheaper it will be for us to do,” McCardle said.

During the design phase, architects highlighted that the Corn Palace is in need of building repairs, including electrical and structural repairs. They estimated the repairs needed to the building hover around $7 million.

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McCardle previously pointed out that pursuing such a large-scale Corn Palace expansion project makes the most sense right now considering the amount of structural and electrical repairs the architects say the building needs.

Despite the funding uncertainties, city leaders have shown they’re still committed to turning the Corn Palace expansion dream into reality.

“We are focused on improving Lake Mitchell right now, which has great momentum. The Corn Palace project doesn’t have that type of momentum right now, but we hope to see that down the road,” Everson said.

The Mitchell City Council was presented with the three Corn Palace expansion design options that architects drummed up

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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