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SEP. 2, 2015 - VOL. 50 No. 12

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COVER STORY

Building for the Future. Denny Sanford Premier Center Exceeds Expectations in First Year.

By Amy Smolik
Marketing & Communications Manager

A facility that was numerous task forces and years of planning in the making is closing out a successful first year of operation. "We certainly had high hopes for our new event center, but we have been blown away by the first year´s results. Sold out shows time and time again, countless memories, visitors to Sioux Falls that can´t wait to come back – and oh, yes, operating in the black big time," said Mayor Mike Huether.

From country music to classic rock and roll, farm implement displays, the PBR rodeo, Cirque du Soleil and everything in between, the first year of operation at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center has been nothing short of spectacular. For management company SMG, the next step is to build on the excitement and maintain the caliber of entertainment that has filled the facility in its first 12 months of operation.

"I think you look at the studies that were done prior to the construction of the facility, and it showed we´d do 12 concerts in the first year and see approximately 30 percent of tickets purchased by local citizens," said General Manager Terry Torkildson. "That´s been a reverse – we´ve seen about 30-35 percent of tickets sold come from outside the community. It´s highly-unusual to have such strong support from a city the size of Sioux Falls. We´ve had two times as many sell-outs and two times as many concerts as we expected. It´s been an amazing ride."

The public was first able to set foot in the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center last September with a number of open houses and a well-attended official ribbon cutting to open the facility. The first sold out show was the Oct. 3 Jason Aldean concert. The Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting was also held in the PREMIER Center last October, featuring a private concert by Chicago for Chamber members.

It´s not just about concerts, however. The annual Sioux Falls Farm Show, held in conjunction with the Chamber-sponsored Sioux Empire Farm Show, is an example of the benefits in store for trade shows, conventions and other similar events. Year after year, the farm show has used the Convention Center and Arena to showcase farm and ag-related products and information – with a waiting list for more vendors. In 2015 the show was able to expand into the PREMIER Center thanks to the additional floor space and a favorable booking schedule. As a result there were more vendors and increased attendance, making this a record year.

"This was the first example of leveraging and maximizing the complex as a complete asset," said Stu Webber, Director of Sales for the Convention Center. "This is great for other event expansion which helps grow and attract additional events for the community."

The complex is now able to offer traditional convention center-type events in the PREMIER Center, as well as piggy back off PREMIER Center events in the Convention Center such as holiday parties during Cirque du Soleil last December.

"The Denny Sanford PREMIER Center has definitely added to the excitement in selling Sioux Falls," said Sioux Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Teri Schmidt. "It has provided the CVB with an additional ‘experience´ opportunity for conventions, meetings, events and leisure travelers."

The additional flat floor space created by the construction of the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center also makes it possible to attract other events, such as the Division I women´s basketball tournament, which will utilize all three facilities in the complex during the tournament. The addition of the PREMIER Center helps the Sioux Falls Sports Authority better compete to host high-profile sporting events in Sioux Falls.

"It has elevated our status across the sports industry," said Sioux Falls Sports Authority Executive Director Wes Hall. "With the PREMIER Center´s contribution to the success of the Summit League Basketball Championships and the fact that Sioux Falls will host the 2016 Division I Women´s Basketball Regional in March, our great city is becoming synonymous with March Madness."

In 2015, the total attendance for the men´s Summit League Basketball Tournament was 35, 612, nearly 12,000 more than the previous record set in 2013 when the tournament was held at the Sioux Falls Arena. Sports fans also flocked to indoor football and hockey games, both of which moved from the Arena to the PREMIER Center. The Sioux Falls Storm indoor football team earned their fifth straight United Bowl Championship in their first season in the center. The Stampede Hockey Club took home the Championship Clark Cup in Sioux Falls.

As part of the Sioux Falls Convention Center and Sioux Falls Arena complex, all three facilities are operating in the black. The city´s entertainment tax is not needed for operating expenses and gains will be reinvested into the facilities to aid in continuing improvements. The facility was developed under a conservative approach by using bonds and no additional taxes to fund it. In its first six months of operation, the PREMIER Center made $1.1 million and generated $900,000 in sales tax revenue, the City reported, nearly surpassing projections of $1.3 million for the first year. The support of the business community has had a significant impact on the first year´s success, Torkildson said.

"Success with sponsorships is key to the success of the building. The budget shows us making a profit, which for most arenas in the country that´s not the case," Torkildson said. "The support of fans, business community, premium seat holders has made the PREMIER Center rise to the top of venues in the country. We recently had ESPN here previewing for the Division I regional. They were astounded by our building with its clean sight lines, and they were also surprised by amount of advertising from a community the size of Sioux Falls."

For years, numerous task forces debated size, location and amenities of a new facility. In November 2011, a special election was held, with 60 percent of voters approving to build a new facility. Being the project manager for the largest publicly-funded project in Sioux Falls´ history was an extraordinary experience, said Kendra Siemonsma with the City of Sioux Falls.

"With that size of a project comes many different stakeholders that have key roles in the process, including the public, citizen groups, City Council, design professionals and construction contractors," Siemonsma said. "In order to manage all of the moving pieces, our project process depended on clear lines of communication and decision making throughout the entire three-plus year project. The process worked, we opened the doors on time and on budget!"

Torkildson said the quality of the facility has been noted by artists, tour groups and management companies. He credits the project management team from the City of Sioux Falls and the lead contractor, Mortenson Construction.

"They built a facility that´s very easy to use, both for patrons and touring facilities. This is extremely rare, he said. "It was built under budget, on time and it´s a high-quality product. When you´re dealing with construction project of this size, it´s very rare. The City should be very proud."

Looking ahead to the future, Torkildson sees the momentum carrying on, though the business ebbs and flows based on availability of touring events and locally-produced events. Several promoters have seen phenomenal success in Sioux Falls and have booked additional acts here because of it. Torkildson expects this to help keep the facility at the top of the touring list for the next several years.

For the City, the success at the PREMIER Center represents another feather in the cap of a growing, progressive city.

"This is just the beginning for this valuable quality of life investment and economic development juggernaut," Huether said. "I am confident that we will reap the rewards of our new event center for a long, long time and that includes the development that will occur around the facility as well – even better things to come, Sioux Falls!"

 

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PROJECT TIMELINE

NOV. 8, 2011:
Special Election held - 60 percent of voters approve building a new Events Center at the Arena/Convention Center site

JULY 23, 2012:
Construction Begins

AUGUST 22, 2012:
Official Groundbreaking

AUGUST 2012:
Title Sponsors announced (First PREMIER Bank, PREMIER Bankcard, and Sanford Health); 25-year partnership

MAY 2013:
Construction reaches halfway mark (estimated $1 million is spent each week)

SEPTEMBER 2014:
Facility opens to the public (open houses)

OCT. 3, 2014:
Jason Aldean, grand opening concert


IN ITS FIRST SIX MONTHS OF OPERATION,
THE DENNY SANFORD PREMIER CENTER HAD:


$1.1 MILLION net operating income
$962,383.40 sales tax payable

408,807 ATTENDANCE
Oct. 3, 2014-April 2, 2015, not including Grand Opening events

94 EVENT DATES
includes multiple events in one day

11 SOLD-OUT EVENTS

8 POP/ROCK CONCERTS

5 COUNTRY CONCERTS

32 BASKETBALL GAMES

Source: Denny Sanford PREMIER Center

 

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ABOUT THE DENNY SANFORD PREMIER CENTER:

Center hung scoreboard is about 19´ tall and 28.5´ wide and weighs approximately 24,000 pounds

Outside marquee over the main entrance has 430,000 light bulbs

164 TV/monitors located throughout the building

Distance from the bottom of the steel framework to the floor is 78 feet

39 bathrooms (179 stools, 78 urinals)

296 rooms (334 doors)

Ice rink floor has 10 miles of pipe under it to cool it; the ice is only 1.5 inches thick

Building´s air conditioning could cool about 600 homes

22 suites

18 loge boxes

500 club seats

4,000 parking spots

4 escalators

4 elevators

 

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