Hundreds of years later, the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and the Sioux Falls Development Foundation are dedicated to working with the Sioux Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to reach out to the meetings and events industry, according to the Forward Sioux Falls 2011–16 growth plan. Designed to stimulate economic development, the plan specifically focuses on business-related goals, including the promotion of meetings.
Sioux Falls is taking a huge step to realize this goal through the construction of the Denny Sanford Premier Center, which is expected to open in the fall of 2014. The new $117 million center will seat up to 13,000 for concerts, 12,000 for basketball, 10,450 for ice hockey, 5,750 for rodeo and 180 trade-show booths. It will be attached to the existing Sioux Falls Convention Center, creating a meeting complex that offers more than 132,000 sq. ft. of contiguous space. The third and original member of the complex is the 8,000-seat Sioux Falls Arena, which opened in 1961 and has served as the region’s main venue for indoor sports and concerts.
“The new arena is building excitement not only among locals, but will hopefully bring in a lot more visitors,” says Rick Huffman, director of sales and marketing for the arena/convention complex. “It makes the future fun to think about. We feel we’re positioned very well to handle a variety of events at the same time.”
For those who would rather play than watch, there’s the new Sanford Sports Complex, which is being unveiled piece by piece. (T. Denny Sanford is a South Dakota businessman and philanthropist.) Last year, an 85,000-square-foot indoor field turf facility and nine outdoor football fields were opened. The cornerstone of the complex is the 160,000-square-foot Sanford Pentagon, which features nine basketball and volleyball courts, and the Heritage Court, which will seat 3,100. Both are expected to open later this year along with retail space. Scheels IcePlex is slated to be complete in the fall of 2014, offering three ice hockey sheets.
To fathom just how important sports groups are to Sioux Falls, consider that sporting events account for 66. 7 percent of the city’s annual visitors, 62.3 percent of the room nights and an estimated 59 percent of tourism’s economic impact. Nearly 30 percent of all events held in Sioux Falls are sports related.
Sioux Falls is doing its best to keep up with the cascade of new visitors as citywide hotel rooms are expected to increase to 4,494 by the end of the year, according to Krista Orsack, CMP, director of sales and marketing for the Sioux Falls CVB. Among the eight new hotel projects scheduled for completion in the next two years is the five-story, 136-room Downtown Hilton Garden Inn, which will open in October with 7,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and a riverfront restaurant and lounge.
Sheraton Sioux Falls Hotel and Conference Center, which is attached to the convention center, is undergoing a $6.5 million renovation that should be complete next month. It offers 243 guest rooms and 5,608 sq. ft. of meeting space. Ramada Hotel & Suites, which is across the street from the convention center, has 150 guest rooms and 5,100 sq. ft. of meeting space and is home to the indoor Buccaneer Bay Water Park.
Best Western Plus Ramkota Hotel & Conference Center has 228 guest rooms and 16 meeting rooms with a combined 60,000 sq. ft. of space, including a 20,000-square-foot exhibition hall, and is located near the sports complexes. Holiday Inn Sioux Falls-City Centre has 290 guest rooms and 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including theater seating for 665 and banquet seating for 504. ClubHouse Hotel & Suites offers 100 guest rooms, with 3,377 sq. ft. of meeting space split up among four rooms.
Sioux Falls features several venues that are conducive to presentations, team bonding, team building and exploration during downtime. The Orpheum Theater Center, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, opened as a vaudeville house and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Known for superb acoustics, the theater draws 100,000 visitors a year. The 686-seat theater is used for a variety of performances and can be rented for special events. The Downtown River Greenway provides a great way for meeting attendees to explore the Big Sioux River along a 24-mile trail for biking, walking, jogging and rollerblading. The Outdoor Campus is part of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. Sign up your group for outdoor skills education such as hunting, fishing, camping, canoeing, kayaking and rock climbing.
Main image: The triple waterfall on the Big Sioux River was popular long before the creation of Falls Park, serving as a center for recreation and industry since the city’s founding in 1856. Today, Falls Park covers 123 acres. An average of 7,400 gallons of water drops 100 feet over the course of the falls each second. Enjoy the view from the five-story observation tower. Photo by Rich Murphy, courtesy of Visit Sioux Falls.
Courtesy of Visit Sioux Falls
Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History feature more than 1,000 animals, such as giraffes, tigers and rhinos, and a collection of 150 mounted animals, including 36 vanishing species legally hunted from the 1940s to the 1960s.
Courtesy of Visit Sioux Falls
Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science houses performing arts, visual arts, interactive science and educational opportunities, including the Mary W. Sommervold Hall that attracts Broadway shows and is home to the South Dakota Symphony. All venues are available to rent.
Courtesy of Visit Sioux Falls
SculptureWalk is an exhibit of 55 sculptures by artists from throughout the world. It extends from Washington Pavilion to Falls Park in downtown Sioux Falls. The sculptures are owned by the artists and loaned to the exhibit for one year.
Crawford’s Bar & Grill, courtesy of Visit Sioux Falls
Sioux Falls is home to a diverse culinary scene, with more than 500 places to dine. Meeting attendees can choose from historic local favorites to contemporary up-and-coming dining hot spots, many serving locally sourced ingredients. The original Minervas restaurant opened in 1977 and was one of the first local establishments to fly in fresh fish to landlocked South Dakota. Popular neighborhood restaurants include Grille 26, Spezia and Mama’s Ladas. Located downtown, Parker’s Bistro and Crawford’s Bar & Grill are newer upscale restaurants that feature century-old buildings with original brick walls. Parker’s private dining area can accommodate groups of up to 25, but it can handle up to 99 with a buyout. Rent out the upstairs at Crawford’s, where there’s room for groups of up to 50.
Just A Click Away
The Sioux Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau is so helpful that the CVB’s mobile website features click-to-call technology, essentially offering a hotline to the sales team. It’s also easy to request a free Meeting Planners Guide simply by using the form on the mobile site. Browse the CVB’s database to learn about hotels, places to meet and top offsite options. Planners can also get directions and learn just how close key venues and hot spots are by using the GPS feature on their phones. For the most up-to-date information on events, go to visitsiouxfalls.com to access the mobile website.
- Name game: Sioux Falls is named for the Sioux tribe of American Indians and the waterfalls of the Big Sioux River. The waterfalls are one of the city’s key attractions.
- Population: 156,300; 228,261 in metro area
- Tri-state transportation hub: The Sioux Falls Regional Airport (FSD) is a transportation hub for southeast South Dakota, southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa. The airport is served by Delta, United, American, Allegiant and Frontier. It is known as Joe Foss Field to honor Joseph J. Foss, former South Dakota governor.
- Hot-air balloon birthplace: A co-founder of Raven Industries created the first modern hotair balloon in the late 1950s for the military and the company began offering the product for personal use in 1960. The Great Plains Balloon Race celebrates this history every June.
- Divorce capital: Hardly a positive reference, Sioux Falls became known as the Divorce Capital of the Nation in the late 1800s, when Easterners began to visit just to get a quickie divorce due to the city’s liberal residency and marriage termination requirements.
- Outlaw visitor: John Dillinger, one of the most notorious bank robbers in the Depression era, robbed Sioux Falls’ Security National Bank and Trust Company in 1934.
- Rock on: Native to the area, the pink quartzite rock at Falls Park is a very hard rock and was used in the construction of many of Sioux Falls’ first buildings and roads.
- Hot summer nights: July is one of the peak times to visit Sioux Falls, with back-to-back-to-back events: Hot Harley Nights, Hot Summer Nights and JazzFest. Hot Harley Nights includes a motorcycle parade, live music and an outdoor party at Falls Park. It raises money for Make-A-Wish South Dakota, supporting children with lifethreatening diseases so they can experience a wish come true.
- Contact: Visit Sioux Falls, visitsiouxfalls.com