Sioux Falls, South Dakota: “The Heart of America” Stays Ahead of the Sporting Game
31 Aug, 2012By: Peter Francesconi
The brand for Sioux Falls is “The Heart of America,” and based on the accolades this largest city in South Dakota has received in recent years, that phrase certainly is appropriate.
USA Today says Sioux Falls, with a population of 162,000, is one of the top-rated areas for quality of life. Parenting magazine continually ranks it as one of the Best Cities for Families. Forbe’s consistently picks Sioux Falls as one of the Best Small Cities for Business and Careers. It’s been ranked in the top 100 places for America’s Best Places to Live by a number of organizations. Allstate Insurance Co. even ranks it as America’s Safest City.
Sioux Falls grew up around the scenic waterfalls of the Big Sioux River, and the 123-acre Falls Park is just north of downtown, with wonderful views as water cascades down 100 feet over the course of the falls. Many events coming into town hold opening ceremonies in Falls Park, and after sunset from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the park is home to the free, spectacular Wells Fargo Sound and Light Show.
“Our brand is ‘The Heart of America,’ and we believe we live up to that,” says Blaine Davis, sales manager for the Sioux Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau. In Sioux Falls, it applies to a number of attributes, including the fact that it’s an easy place to get to.
“We’re centrally located, at the junction of I-29 and I-90, and in fact are within a day’s drive of most major cities in the Midwest,” Davis notes. Reaching the area by air is easy, too, with major airlines serving the Sioux Falls Regional Airport.
Emphasis on Sports Facilities
Sioux Falls also offers excellent sports facilities. The Parks and Recreation Department, which is one of only 100 U.S. Park and Recreation agencies that have earned accreditation by CAPRA, maintains the facilities and continues to focus on growth.
"Sports are very important to our community and our residents, and we hope to bring more and more visitors and sports participants of all ages to the area to take advantage of our facilities,” says Davis. Sioux Falls maintains a network of more than 80 parks and greenways throughout the city, and many are connected through a paved 20-mile biking/jogging/walking path.
Included among Sioux Falls’ facilities are the 21 soccer fields at Yankton Trail Park, the site of invitational, regional and state soccer tournaments and home to the Manfred Szameit Soccer Complex. Rich in history, the park also includes a children’s play area and plenty of parking.
Also available is the Sherman Park Softball Complex, “one of the most premier in the region,” says Davis. The complex has nine agri-limed fields, with lighting that exceeds Amateur Softball Association guidelines. It also features dugouts, shade structures, wireless scoreboards, information kiosks, and central restroom and plaza area. Sherman Park hosts ASA youth championships and other events that often bring hundreds of teams from across the nation.
Another championship facility is Harmodon Park, a 15-field complex, with eight softball fields and seven baseball fields all agri-limed and lighted with batting cages, digital scoreboards and shade structures. The complex is ideal for tournaments due to the picnic shelters and playgrounds, which keep the entire family entertained. Harmodon Park has hosted state, regional, and national tournaments.
And there are many smaller parks, too, including McKennan Park, Sioux Falls’ oldest developed park. The historic site is home to eight lighted tennis courts and eight lighted, tournament-play horseshoe pits. There is also Dunham Park, with 20 softball fields all with covered dugouts, and warm-up areas that include two batting cages. Dunham has hosted many state and local tournaments, and is used as a practice facility for national events. A local favorite is Tuthill Park, home to some of the best sledding and ice skating in the region. In summer, locals take advantage of the 18-hole disc golf course, which has hosted state and regional championships.
On the Horizon
The city recently passed a public vote to build a new $115 million Sioux Falls Events Center, adjacent to the current Convention Center and Arena. It will add 30,000 square feet of flat floor space, for a combined total of 132,000 square feet within the complex. Seating will be 12,000 for basketball, 10,450 for hockey, up to 13,000 for concerts, and 5,750 for rodeo, with 180 standard booths for a tradeshow.
“With the added space and amenities, the new events center will allow us to compete with the larger markets,” Davis notes. “When you combine our service and the new facilities, it makes Sioux Falls an unbeatable sporting destination.”
And there’s the new 162-acre Sanford Sports Complex, expected to be fully completed in late 2013 and billed as “a game-changing destination.” The centerpiece will be the Pentagon, a 160,000-square-foot facility that includes nine basketball courts—six high school regulation, two professional/college practice courts, and a "heritage" court, a premium NBA/college-size court.
Some of the fields and amenities at the Sanford complex (including nine new football fields) are currently available. The complex will also have three ice rinks, a tennis facility and state-of-the-art field house. “This is going to be an amazing sports destination,” says Davis, “with everything all in one beautiful location, right on the river.” The development plan also includes retail stores, restaurants and hotels.
Sioux Falls also is home to colleges that have sports facilities. In addition to baseball and football fields at Augustana College, for instance, it has six basketball courts and six volleyball courts. The University of Sioux Falls Sports Complex has a synthetic turf football field (with seating for 5,000), two soccer fields (one synthetic turf), Olympic-size 10-lane running track, and three NAIA/NCAA-approved multi-purpose courts.
Sioux Falls Arena holds more than 175 different events each year, including NBA Development League basketball, USHL Hockey, United Indoor Football, ice shows, rodeos, wrestling and trade shows. The arena, which can hold 8,000, also is connected to the Sioux Falls Convention Center and a hotel.
Also available is the W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds & Expo Center (with seating for 3,500), which can accommodate several types of activities, from rodeo, soccer/football, shooting sports and more.
There are several excellent golf courses, too, including Willow Run, which received a four-star rating by Golf Digest magazine, and Bakker Crossing, named one of the top 10 affordable public courses. There also is the 27-hole Elmwood Course and 18-hole championship course at Prairie Green.
For event-holders and tournament organizers, working with the Sioux Falls CVB “is a true partnership in every sense of the word,” Davis says. “We’re a full-service CVB, committed to making sure your event is a success from start to finish.”
Some of the services include providing event attendees with Visitors Guides, customized brochures and discount coupons, and assisting in planning additional activities, such as for spouses and children. A favorite of the many youth tournaments is the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science, home to the Kirby Science Discovery Center with over 100 hands-on exhibits and activities. The CVB also has an internet-based housing service to coordinate hotel rooms. Sioux Falls has more than 4,200 hotel rooms of all types, and there are more than 500 restaurants.
Other services include assisting with public relations, providing an on-site information desk, and providing experienced on-site registration personnel, who can act as greeters, registrars, cashiers or ticket-takers.
It all adds up to memorable events. “Sioux Falls has hosted our Regional Tournament several times,” says Bob Hart of the national championships committee of US Youth Soccer. “We bring over 200 teams, 13,000 fans and team members and many college coaches from around the country, and we’ve found the CVB, volunteers and entire community to be some of the most supportive groups we’ve experienced.”
“The CVB was instrumental in bringing national level AAU wrestling to Sioux Falls,” adds Wade Behm, co-chair of Sioux Falls Midwest Wrestling. “They assisted us with planning and execution throughout our event. We couldn't have done it without them.”
For more information, go to visitsiouxfalls.com