Authority OKs recreation center project, as Ellsworth Air Force Base preps for B-21s

Noble Horvath

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A $12.6 million recreation center will be built to serve the growing number of personnel expected at Ellsworth Air Force Base in western South Dakota. The state Ellsworth Development Authority approved a resolution Monday telling its executive director, Scott Landguth, and chairman Patrick Burchill of Rapid […]

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A $12.6 million recreation center will be built to serve the growing number of personnel expected at Ellsworth Air Force Base in western South Dakota.

The state Ellsworth Development Authority approved a resolution Monday telling its executive director, Scott Landguth, and chairman Patrick Burchill of Rapid City to sign contracts.

Liberty Center will be built along Liberty Boulevard north of I-90 in Box Elder, according to Landguth. The base is northeast of Rapid City.

15 years ago Ellsworth Air Force Base was on the closure list, before South Dakota’s congressional delegation and governor convinced a federal commission it should stay open.

The center is planned as the Air Force gears up for another 1,600 on-base personnel at Ellsworth with the coming of new B-21 Raider bombers. There are about 2,500 personnel now. The base currently is a home for B-1B bombers.

The design firm for center,  JLG Architects, has offices in Minneapolis, Rochester, and Alexandria, Minnesota, and Grand Forks, Bismarck, Minot, Williston, Dickinson, and Fargo, North Dakota, and Brookings, Rapid City, and Sioux Falls in South Dakota.

JLG plans to select a contractor for the recreation project after October 8, said Patri Acevedo, the firm’s Rapid City-market leader.

The authority has been awarded a grant for the center of approximately $6.3 million from the federal Office of Economic Adjustment that assists the U.S. Department of Defense in communities.

The other half of the rec project would be funded in part by a state government appropriation of $3.2 million that would be proposed in the 2021 legislative session.

Approximately $2 million of the rec project is proposed to be funded through a tax-increment financing district. The authority has provided $518,000 for engineering, and the value of the 15-acre site, for a total of $1,171,000.

Ellsworth Air Force Base and South Dakota National Guard would annually contribute funding for the center’s operations based on usage for their operations. The center would be open to anyone who purchased memberships.

The Rapid City YMCA would contract to manage the center. Among its features will be a 1/8-mile indoor running track.

Four public information sessions about the B-21 conversions are planned in October. The B-21s are also planned for Dyess Air Force Base in Texas.

A draft environmental impact statement was recently issued showing the B-21s would have less effects than B-1Bs, Landguth told authority members Monday.

“The EIS was positive. The stars are lined up for Ellsworth,” chairman Burchill said. 

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