Corn Palace declines to host 2026 state gymnastics, prioritizing DWU Classic basketball event

“The Corn Palace and the city weren't willing to lose a two-day event with a strong partner to host an event once every four years,” said Corn Palace director Doug Greenway.

Corn Palace 6-2017 (1).jpg
The Corn Palace. (Mitchell Republic file photo)

MITCHELL — Though the 2022 South Dakota high school state gymnastics competition hosted in Mitchell was met with largely positive reception, the event is unlikely to return, at least in the short term.

Earlier this week, the Corn Palace declined an agreement with the South Dakota High School Activities Association to host state gymnastics again in 2026, according to Corn Palace director Doug Greenway. Instead, the venue is set to continue hosting the DWU Classic high school basketball event.

The annual two-day classic, comprised of one day of girls games and one of boys contests, occupies the same Friday and Saturday each February as the state gymnastics championships, also a two-day event between the team and individual competitions. When the Corn Palace hosted state gymnastics in 2022, the DWU Classic was relocated to McCook Central High School in Salem.

Having now hosted both events, Corn Palace officials prefer to host the DWU Classic moving forward, which Greenway made known at the Mitchell Sports and Event Authority's meeting in February.

“It's a fine line. It's a state activity event, and you want to get those,” Greenway said at the meeting. “But it's a situation where ... strictly from an event standpoint, we'd prefer to host the DWU Classic versus state gymnastics.”


As director of the city-owned facility, Greenway's responsibility is to schedule events that are best for the community. In that regard, he says the financial figures favor the DWU Classic.

“We had 103,000 (people) show up for 173 basketball games this year, so basketball is kind of king here,” Greenway told the Mitchell Republic. “… When we look at it from a business standpoint, there's no doubt (the DWU Classic) is a better event because there are more people and concession sales are better.”

At state gymnastics in February 2022, the Corn Palace recorded 2,964 attendees over two days. By comparison, in the DWU Classic’s return to the Corn Palace in February 2023, there were 4,435 attendees across two days.

Mitchell's Kyra Gropper competes in floor routine during a 2022 gymnastics meet at the Corn Palace in Mitchell.
Mitchell Republic file photo

The disparity was also reflected at the concessions stands, with sales of $15,412 for the 2023 DWU Classic and $9,542 for 2022 state gymnastics.

The Corn Palace received a $1,000 stipend from the SDHSAA for state gymnastics. Meanwhile, Dakota Wesleyan contributes $2,500 for use of the building along with 5% of total ticket sales both at the door and through the pay-per-view streaming of the event.

“I don't take that chore lightly, but someone has to make a decision,” Greenway said. “We can’t expect to just be offered state events and say, ‘Well, we want that one but not this one.’ We put a lot of thought into this. It wasn't, ‘Oh my gosh, we're never hosting that again.’ We sat on this for four or five months, looking at our numbers. Both were really good events.”

Mitchell’s appetite for basketball has recently been underscored by the Hoop City Classic set to move all three days of competition to the Corn Palace in 2023, as well as the relocation of the three-day Dakota Oyate Challenge to the Palace from Huron starting in January 2024.

Greenway pointed out that perhaps the largest argument for state gymnastics is the impact it has on filling up Mitchell hotels. The SDHSAA budgets for approximately 350 hotel rooms between teams, officials and fans for state gymnastics. According to an estimate from the SEA board, the DWU Classic accounted for approximately 40 rooms. One of the SEA's primary efforts is to bring events to Mitchell that bring overnight stays to the community's hotel industry, and some tax dollars from those hotel stays funnel back to the SEA to grant funding to events coming to the city.


For the Corn Palace, the priority is maintaining a positive relationship with Dakota Wesleyan University and securing an annual event as opposed to being in the cycle to host a state event once every four years.

Howard's Kate Connor, right, and Jones County's Mallory Valburg, left, jump for the opening tip off of a DWU Classic girls basketball contest on Friday, Feb. 10, 2023, at the Corn Palace.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

“The Corn Palace and the city weren't willing to lose a two-day event with a strong partner to host an event once every four years,” Greenway said. “It's a partnership, and it happens every year, so you weigh those things. Of course, we know the tricky part is you turn away a state event.”

According to Mitchell activities director Cory Aadland, who was among the event organizers for the gymnastics meet, not being able to host state gymnastics again is a challenge. However, he noted that if the new Mitchell High School building includes athletic facilities, it re-opens an avenue for Mitchell to host state gymnastics. If voters approve a bond measure for those athletic facilities in June, the new athletic facilities would open for the 2025-26 school year.

“When you’re using someone else’s facility that you don’t have any control over, that’s the risk that you run,” Aadland said of the Corn Palace’s decision. “We were able to put on a really successful state gymnastics meet that we had a lot of really great reviews on, but if we don’t have the facility availability, then we’re in a tough position. ... But this (new) facility would take care of that option to do those things.”

Dierks covers prep and collegiate athletics across the Mitchell Republic's coverage region area, focusing on Mitchell High School football and boys basketball and area high school football, volleyball and basketball, as well as Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Gridiron Spotlight, producing video and providing live play-by-play for the traveling weekly prep football broadcast during its first season in the fall of 2021. Dierks is a Mitchell native who graduated from South Dakota State University with his bachelor's degree in journalism in May 2020. He joined the Mitchell Republic sports staff in August 2021. He can be reached at and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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