Timeline: A look at the Corn Palace Stampede-Horsemen's Sports rodeo grounds dispute
Mitchell's rodeo grounds saga has seen a pair of local nonprofit groups in court for the last three years.
MITCHELL — Over the past three years, the lawsuit between the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo and its landlord, Horsemen’s Sports has been a long, complicated story.
In April, Corn Palace Stampede won a jury decision in the case that allowed it to take key improvements it made to the rodeo grounds with it to a new location near the Mitchell Regional Airport, plus received $100,000 in damages. Horsemen’s Sports, which is a longtime nonprofit club of area team ropers and rodeo event enthusiasts from the Mitchell area, has appealed the decision. After court action mandated the two sides get along to hold the rodeo in 2021 and 2022, the appeal and the frosty relationship between the sides will preclude this year’s Mitchell rodeo from taking place in mid-July.
Here’s a review of the recent rodeo grounds timeline to this point:
July 2019: The Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo is held for the 49th consecutive year at the Horsemen’s Sports Arena with a purse of $71,327 over four days, drawing 7,683 attendees. The rodeo dates back to 1971, with each edition being held at the location along State Highway 37 near Lake Mitchell.
March 2020: The onset of COVID-19 begins in South Dakota.
April 24, 2020: Corn Palace Stampede cancels the 2020 rodeo due to the COVID-19 pandemic . “The pandemic is going to be so hard on individuals and businesses in our community that we rely on to support us,” Corn Palace Stampede President Jim Miskimins said at the time. “And we didn’t feel like it was fair to lean on them to support our event during these difficult financial times.”
May 11, 2020: The rodeo arena fence at Horsemen’s Sports Arena is taken down, causing conflict between CPS and HSI. In court, HSI representatives said they took the fence down because they knew they had more than a year to widen the arena and rebuild the fence, making the arena larger and better and believed they could make the improvements because they owned the facility. In the days after this, CPS and HSI representatives met in person at the arena and later disagreed about what was agreed to for improvements. While the organizations got along for decades on “handshake deals,” 2020 marked a stark change in the relationship.
Aug. 26, 2020: HSI members later altered the alignment of the bucking chutes and removed the deck platform in CPS’ VIP area, as well. According to court testimony, when HSI President Brandon Neugebauer alerted Miskimins about moving chutes, Miskimins responded via text: “Proceed at your own risk.”
Sept. 10, 2020: Corn Palace Stampede files a lawsuit against Horsemen’s Sports regarding damages to its property . HSI later files a counterclaim against CPS. HSI members testified in court they were going to put the fence and deck planks back but then received the lawsuit.
April 2021: With the next edition of the CPS Rodeo drawing near, First Circuit Court Judge David Knoff issues an injunction that allows CPS to hold its 2021 rodeo on the land.
July 2021: Coming off the pandemic in 2021, CPS Rodeo draws more than 13,000 fans over four nights for the 50th edition of the event, including nearly 4,000 fans on Friday, July 16.
September 2021: With the lawsuit with HSI underway, CPS reaches a lease agreement with the city of Mitchell to move its rodeo to a new location at 5971 Airport Road. The new property is about 20 acres, with CPS set to rent the land for a cost of $7,500 per year. As part of the moves, CPS created a new nonprofit organization called the Mitchell Rodeo Foundation.
July 2022: The 51st Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo takes place, with the court-ordered injunction still in place between the two parties. The event had a purse of $81,289 and a total payout of $83,888.
January 2023: Judge David Knoff rules to strip out the individual liability against members of Horsemen’s Sports in the case, setting it up to be only a lawsuit between the two nonprofit organizations.
April 11, 2023: The jury trial begins between the two parties. CPS argues it should be able to take its improvements to the facility because it deemed all of its structures “personal property” in an earlier lease, valued at as much as $600,000 in one early estimate in the lawsuit. HSI argued that the construction done on the rodeo grounds became property of HSI, as a 1999 lease stipulated, unless the improvements “could be readily removed without causing damage” to the facility, which was one of the primary topics argued over in court.
April 14, 2023: A jury rules that CPS can take major elements of the rodeo grounds with them to a new facility, plus award $100,000 to CPS in damages after ruling HSI breached the contract with CPS. No decision is announced at the time regarding the 2023 rodeo plans.
May 8, 2023: CPS announces it is canceling the 2023 rodeo due to the legal appeal from HSI in the case. CPS said it could not reach a one-year agreement to hold the rodeo at the arena for 2023. The parade, chili cook-off and family fun day remain planned for the weekend of July 15. After 49 rodeos in a row, it's the second time in four years the summer rodeo won't take place in Mitchell.
What's next: HSI has the ability to appeal the jury's ruling to the state Supreme Court. HSI Attorney Tim Whalen, in an interview with the Mitchell Republic, said the organization was considering appealing. Corn Palace Stampede President Jim Miskimins, in a letter to rodeo supporters, said CPS "turned over every stone to attempt to hold a rodeo this year" but that "we have a spot secured for 2024 and beyond."