Events Center Vote - Part One: Fargo - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Events Center Vote - Part One: Fargo

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Heading to the polls to vote on whether to build a Sioux Falls event center is only a week and a day away.

And all week long we're bringing you stories from other cities around our area that already have events centers in place.

We start in Fargo which is the biggest city in North Dakota.

More than 105,000 people live in Fargo. Compared to Sioux Falls, we are also the biggest city in the state but we are larger than Fargo. About 48,000 more people.

More than 153,000 people live in Sioux Falls and in the metropolitan area, the population reaches more than 228,000.

Now let's take you to the FARGODOME which sits on the North Dakota State University's campus.

We begin our team coverage as we show you how it's been a positive investment for that city and what advice Fargo leaders have for us.

Whether it's a concert that can hold up to 27,000 people or a Bison football game that could handle just under 20,000 people, the FARGODOME has turned a profit every year since it opened its doors in 1992.

"We never lost money so it has been a success for us," Mayor Dennis Walaker said.

Fargo's Mayor Dennis Walaker tells us before the dome was built it went to a public vote, passing by 65%.

"It's very hard to find anyone who speaks against the Dome anymore because not only is the Dome paid for today, it basically, 20 years of every year having a profit," Walaker said.

The FARGODOME was paid off with a half-cent sales tax three years ago. Taxpayers approved the tax when they went to the polls back in the late 1980's. They've been taxed for the past 20 years on most purchases.

We sat down with Kent Costin, Fargo's Director of Finance.

"In our case there was more sales tax that we had initially envisioned," Costin said.

Which means their reserve fund tops more than $30 million dollars for the FARGODOME.

"And as a result we had the ability to add on to the facility and have added on once," Costin said.

The city-owned facility is managed by Global Spectrum, the same group that manages the Sioux Falls Convention Center. It was built in the early 1990's for $50 million. Costin says now, it's worth $150 million.

Pictures show the progress from the start of construction to the finished project and even the first concert.

"It's a market that can sell tickets. It's a little bit out of the way market but some artists look at a unique opportunity to go where they can play in Fargo to get in all 50 states in," FARGODOME General Manager Rob Sobolik said.

Unique artists like Elton John. the Rolling Stones and even Billy Joel, bring people into the Dome which in turn, as FARGODOME General Manager Rob Sobolik explains makes the city money.

"In the first 10 years it was about a $320 million economic impact so it's a significant impact," Sobolik said.

And over the past three years, those numbers haven't changed much.The FARGODOME continues to operate in the black with revenues of more than $96,000 in 2008. In 2009, almost $113,000 and last year, almost $145,000.

"So is it important to operate as profitable as possible? Absolutely, 100%. And that is a charge that needs to be taken very seriously by all involved," Sobolik said.

Sobolik says that should be Sioux Falls' goal as well, if an events center gets built.

"Understanding what intention or the mission is to bring all types of events to Sioux Falls and to just enhance the great quality of life that exists in Sioux Falls now," Sobolik said.

And he thinks the whole city could benefit.

"A lot of people eating in restaurants, local shopping at the mall and other stores and staying in hotel rooms and making a weekend out of it as well enhances the quality of life," Sobolik said.

And that's something Fargo's mayor agrees with too.

"I think it would be really good for Sioux Falls, I really do. Dragging people into town benefits everybody," Walaker said.

And that could bring in millions to Sioux Falls like the Dome continues to profit the City of Fargo.

Because of the FARGODOME's reserve fund from the taxes collected, crews have upgraded the facility numerous times. Some of those projects include a new lobby and a new roof. Crews also replaced the lighting and upgraded the sound system. Next year, they plan to put in new turf.

We will continue to bring you stories all week from Omaha, Grand Forks and Sioux City.

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