Mitchell board seeks more input on ‘Gary Munsen Court’

The "Gary Munsen Court" will have to wait. The Mitchell City Council had nothing but kind words to say about former Mitchell High School teacher and legendary basketball coach Gary Munsen, but council members tabled a decision to rename the Corn ...

Daily Republic file photo of Gary Munsen (Republic file photo)

The “Gary Munsen Court” will have to wait.

The Mitchell City Council had nothing but kind words to say about former Mitchell High School teacher and legendary basketball coach Gary Munsen, but council members tabled a decision to rename the Corn Palace floor after him to receive more public input.

“Once you name it, I don’t think you can unname it,” Council President Steve Rice warned.

The decision to rename the court after the widely known coach was brought by Ernie Kuyper of the Mike Miller Foundation, said Corn Palace Director Scott Schmidt, and Miller himself touted the decision to name the court after his former coach.

On Twitter last week, Miller said his former coach was “one of the most influential people in my life.” Munsen died last year at 72.


The decision was made at Monday’s regular meeting at City Hall after the Mike Miller Foundation offered to pay for stickers to be placed on the court honoring Gary Munsen. Miller won multiple championships under Munsen’s tutelage before going on to a successful career in the NBA.

Mitchell High School teacher and Councilman Mel Olson said he taught with, knew and was friends with Munsen, but he said he would vote against naming the court after his friend.

“I have some difficulty with this,” Olson said. “This is a municipal facility, and we’re the home court not only for the Mitchell Kernels but for the Dakota Wesleyan Tigers.”

Gary Munsen guided 12 teams of student-athletes to win state titles in basketball over a 47-year career, including 39 years as a varsity head coach.

And Olson, who admires Munsen’s record, was open to considering a plaque instead. He also pondered why the city would name the court after Munsen and not Dakota Wesleyan’s legendary coach Gordie Fosness.

Olson also noted how smaller schools play at the building and tournaments are hosted there.

“I understand the sentiment, and I understand why Ernie and the boys want to do this,” Olson said. “If it were the high school facility, I’d say it’s a no-brainer, but it’s not.”

When Munsen died last year, there was an outpouring of support and recognition for his career on the sidelines, with former player Tom Young highlighting Munsen’s “soft heart” that could be found beyond “his gruff and tough exterior.” At the time, Young said Munsen “was Mitchell basketball.”


Munsen coached his final game in 2012, bringing teams to the state tournament 34 out of 39 years.

Councilman Marty Barington was the first to suggest the delay to hear more citizen input, although he didn’t take a side like Olson.

While the stickers would come at no cost to the city, Smith and Barington discussed the possibility of future naming rights for the court. Before Rice, Barington was also the first to note that no council would ever unname the court if Gary Munsen’s name graces the hardwood.

And Smith, who called Munsen a “mainstay” in the area, said there’s more to the decision than meets the eye.

“There’s more to it than just a sticker on the floor,” Smith said.

Third Ave. closure continues The City Council is pressing for more information regarding the construction project that has closed a portion of Third Avenue between Main and Rowley streets for months.

During citizen input, Councilman Kevin McCardle asked Building Inspector John Hegg for an update on the demolition and construction project. And Hegg suggested the building’s owner may need the street to be closed beyond Jan. 1.

Smith said the closure is “the hottest topic in town,” and he suggested Hegg give an update every meeting or at least once a month.


When the project began earlier this year, Tingle Rental Properties LLC. owned the building. Hegg said some delays were caused because a change in ownership was underway when the building began to crumble.

But Smith and McCardle wanted to hear regular updates.

“If nothing else, you’re giving an update of, ‘There’s no update,’ ” Smith said.

Hegg said the building owner has found a design professional to look at the building, and Hegg said an update from the design professional could come in a couple weeks.

After civil action was mentioned by the council, City Attorney Justin Johnson said civil action could be a long-term matter and it could take a year to secure a court date.

At some point, Johnson said, the council could revisit the discussion of opening one lane of the street.

Councilman John Doescher said the city will have a hard time selling downtown improvements if the Third Avenue closure continues.

Public to hear lake study in January Mitchell residents will have to be patient.

Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell offered the City Council an update on the Lake Mitchell study currently underway, and Powell said the public will hear the results on Jan. 9.

“We’re nearing the end of phase one,” Powell said.

Last week, Powell and other city officials and residents visited water quality specialists Fyra Engineering in Omaha. Fyra is the company conducting a $73,725 study to isolate the cause of the lake’s annual algae blooms.

Powell said city committees will receive the report on Dec. 1, and it will be reviewed before it’s presented to the public.

Consent agenda The council approved the following consent agenda items:

  • Minutes from the previous City Council and Planning Commission meetings and various department reports.
  • Raffle permits from the following organizations: James River Gobblers, with the drawing to be held Oct. 29; Sam Tronnes Memorial Foundation, with the drawing to be held Nov. 3; Mitchell Technical Institute Rodeo Team, with the drawing to be held Nov. 18; Mitchell Area Safehouse-Holiday Spirit, with the drawing to be held Dec. 1; Palace City Lions, with the drawing to be held Dec. 15; Mitchell Area Networking Association, with the drawing to be held Jan. 11; James River Valley Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, with the drawing to be held March 24.
  • Set Nov. 6 as the date for a hearing on Blarney’s Sports Bar and Grill’s application for a special event liquor license, located at the Highland Mall, for a Holiday Spirit event with the proceeds benefiting Mitchell Area Safehouse.
  • Change Order No. 3 for the veterans park project. The change to James Valley Nursery decreases the total contract by $6,000, adjusting the new contract amount to $17,030.29.
  • Change Order No. 2 to Commercial Asphalt for a paving and overlay project. The contract rose by $11,482.48, adjusting the new contract amount to $407,380.31.
  • Accept Section 5311 funds from the S.D. Department of Transportation for Palace Transit. Total state and federal funding will be $464,620.75, with local funds will be $188,086.19.
  • The application of Lori Claussen, doing business as Lori’s Cab, for a taxicab general license.
  • Gas and fuel quotes, pay estimates, bills, payroll, salary adjustments and new employee hires and the authorization of payment of recurring and other expenses in advance as approved by the finance officer.

Other business In other business, the council:

  • Met as the Traffic Commission to approve directional lanes at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Iowa Street. The request was for a left turn lane and a straight lane with a right turn option on the north side of the Eighth and Iowa intersection to improve traffic flow exiting the Mitchell Middle School.
  • Met as the Public Health and Safety Committee to approve a firework permit for the Mitchell Area Community Theatre for Oct. 28 and 29.
  • Called the meeting to order, conducted the Pledge of Allegiance, heard an invocation from Resurrection Lutheran Church, conducted roll call and heard committee reports.
  • During citizen input, Human Resources Director Billie Kelly said the city received awards for safety.
  • Approved the application of OverTime Steakhouse & Sports Bar for a special event liquor license on Oct. 28 located at OverTime Event Center. Approved the application to transfer retail on-sale liquor license RL-19079 from V.V. Inc., 508 and 510 E. Havens Ave., doing business as Sudz, to V.V. Inc., 508 E. Havens Ave. Suite No. 2, doing business as Outback Casino.
  • Met as the Board of Adjustment and set Nov. 6 as the date for a conditional use permit from Melissa Jenkins and CJG Properties LLC to allow for a family residential child care center at 924 E. Third Ave.
  • Acknowledged withdrawn application requests from CJG Properties LLC for a conditional use permit and variances for self-service storage facilities at 1821 W. Eighth Ave.
  • Awarded a bid for Corn Palace dimmers to Muth Electric.
  • Approved Agreement No. A2017-30, a law enforcement training software agreement with TargetSolutions. The agreement would allow the Mitchell Police Division and Mitchell Dispatch to have access to TargetSolutions’ online training platform.
  • Approved Resolution No. R2017-73, a plat of Performance Pet Products First Addition.
  • Held a closed-door executive session. The agenda states that the closed session will be held for “preparing for contract negotiations.” The executive session was held in the mayor’s office. No action was taken following the session.
Related Topics: CORN PALACE
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