5 former Rapid City mayors join opposition to $180 million Rushmore Plaza Civic Center project



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RAPID CITY, South Dakota — Five former mayors of Rapid City are opposing a proposed $180 million expansion of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

Former mayors Keith Carlyle, Ed McLaughlin, Jim Shaw, Jerry Munson and Alan Hanks have joined the Fix the Plan committee, which aims to rally voters against what would be the costliest project in Rapid City history. A public referendum is scheduled March 10.

"I've had some people come up to me and say, 'Is this the best thing for the city?'" said group spokesman Richard Wahlstrom, who was the city's finance officer from 1990-95. "Every mayor between 1987 and 2011 who has dealt with these issues has concluded that ... the plan as proposed is not the answer to the question."

The seventh member of the opposition group is Steve McCarthy, a past president of the Rapid City Area School District.

The project would replace the Civic Center's 9,400-seat arena with one that could seat up to 19,000 people. Local sales tax money would be used to repay bonds for the project. The arena ultimately could cost more than $400 million over 30 years with interest.

Supporters of the project believe it is a wiser investment than putting money into the existing facility. Officials have identified more than $70 million in changes and repairs needed at the existing arena to correct building code and Americans with Disabilities Act violations.

"I'm happy it is going to a vote because to me this only works if Rapid City citizens want it," Civic Center General Manager Craig Baltzer said.

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