Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My New Hero!

Today’s little rant may surprise my handful of loyal readers. I’m not here to bury anybody this fine day. In fact, I’m here to recognize somebody as the Official Voice of Reason for Sioux Falls.

Before we get to that, however, I must set it up with my usual lack of class. The bozos of the Event Center Task have proven to be exactly what I predicted a few months ago. There was no real attempt to truly study the issue and create an independent recommendation for the city. Future Wal-mart greeter Munson (along with his developer and real estate cronies) obviously gave them the outcome he wanted, and they worked backwards to agree with his desires.

Ok, there’s one small change from Munson’s original dream - instead of being situated in the middle of slow-moving one-way downtown streets, the Event Center is to now be built in the more realistic location of the current Arena. But that’s exactly where common sense ends. Instead of a facility with a reasonable cost and seating capacity, these clowns want us to fund a 15,000 seat, $150 million dollar monstrosity that will someday inevitably be called “Munson’s Folly”.

As I’ve stated from the very beginning, there is absolutely no need for that many seats. None of our minor league sports franchises will ever come close to filling a building that large, and the collapse of the record industry is ensuring that the number of musical acts that could sell those kinds of numbers are dwindling every year. This opinion was actually recently voiced by an expert in the field from Convention Sports Leisure, which thoroughly pissed off the rubber-stamp crowd.

This is why I actually stood up and applauded when I read this past Sunday’s Argus Leader. Sure, I looked a bit silly since I was at Black Sheep Coffee at the time, but I just couldn’t resist. Finally, somebody with a little clout in this city publicly says what needs to be said.

My new hero is Stampede chief executive officer Gary Weckwerth. Sure, he differs with me in that he does want a new facility built. At least he’s realistic about the city’s draw, saying that a 15,000 seat building is “monstrous for this community…I don’t want to see them over-build and have this big animal that sits empty and doesn’t work for the teams that play there”, he told the Argus. “Over the last 50 years, have we really outgrown the Arena that we have? The amenities and quality of it…is gone. But from a simple seat perspective, we have not outgrown the Arena as it sits today. And we never will.” Please, Mr. Weckwerth, run for Mayor.

That same Argus article, however, also for the first time (at least in my recollection) of probably the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard. Task member Dana Dykhouse, First Premier’s CEO, wants a 18,000 seat Fargodome-ish building with high school football as its primary tenant.

I’d really love a bit of whatever this man is smoking. Outside of possibly the Dakota Bowl, there is no high school football game that would come close to making use of 18,000 seats. And can you imagine the sterile atmosphere that would come out of 2,500 Skyforce fans spread out, one person per row, or the 4,000 people who typically show up at the tired classic rock garbage that is generally booked in this town? Yeah, let’s spend $150 million so we can see Journey with their 4th (or is it 5th) lead singer.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Phillps Moneyhole

Last week, Phillips Avenue was reopened amidst much fanfare. The Mayor was there, acting in his capacity as official greeter, as were developers, business leaders, and seemingly every other would-be city bigwig. Film crews from all three networks were present, along with reporters from the Argus Leader.

Everybody present had nothing but gushing praise for the project and the construction crew. All media stories noted that the project was completed well ahead of the deadline. Of course, there was a financial incentive to speed up the process (a fact rarely mentioned in the press coverage).

According to my sources, though, it turns out that this multi-million dollar project was unnecessary work. Remember, this project “needed” to happen to fix a water main, and as early as the initial planning sessions at least one major downtown retailer noted that this work had actually been performed in the early 80’s when the downtown pedestrian mall had been torn up. A city engineer was also reportedly told when he visited this retailer to check out some alley drainage issues.

City officials denied that this was possible, according to one source. “The city insisted that the water line was from the 40’s, but when they got down in there it was from the 80’s and apparently they didn't have a record of this. (This is) strange as it would have been essentially the same project, (with) 80’s prices, of course, but a LARGE project nonetheless.”

Construction could (and should) have stopped right there, but the city carried on. “The sidewalks were to be replaced as a result of this water line work, (as) they would have to bust up sections of the sidewalk to connect us all back in to the line. Since they didn't have to do the water work they shouldn't have done the now completely unnecessary sidewalk replacement. They did it anyway and I have to say it was better quality work before.”

Many questions come to mind after hearing this story. “Did the city get a break in the price tag since the work wasn’t done? Why did they go ahead and replace sidewalk that was still in good shape?” My source adds one further question that I can’t help but include. “Why does Tim Kant have fewer gigantic planters on the bump-out in front of his store than the rest of us?”

Even with the best planter deal in town, though, Kant is reportedly not happy with their existence. “The purpose of the planters, while not the most esthetically pleasing, is to prevent cars from crashing into pedestrians and patrons but Tim's panties are all in a knot because the planters are taking up valuable space on ‘HIS LORDSHIPS’ bump-out. Never mind that that is City property that we all have to get a permit to use.”

What I’d like to know is why is the media ignoring this story? Instead of showing up for photo ops, why aren’t they doing a little digging in the city records? How does an idiot like me find out the real story but they don’t? While I don’t expect much from the fine folks at Sanfordland (I mean KELO), there certainly has to be one remaining investigative reporter at the daily paper.