If Sioux Falls (pop. 178,500) suddenly picked up and moved itself to California, South Dakota’s largest city would rank only 24th in the Golden State’s urban hierarchy. While that size of a city might not rate as a major meeting stop in California, Sioux Falls has long drawn a decent crowd in the upper Midwest—with the potential now for much more.
“We’ve been a strong meetings destination for 250 to 500 attendees since 1997, when the Sioux Falls Convention Center opened,” says Krista Orsack, director of marketing for the CVB. The landscape changed in 2011, though, when voters approved a new $117 million multipurpose arena connected to the convention center and the 243-room Sheraton Sioux Falls. Six years later, that gamble—an effort to draw more and larger meetings and trade shows to town—seems to be paying off.
“We want groups that have a need for greater general session and trade show space,” says Orsack, noting the city’s current convention mix focuses on emphasis on medical, insurance, religious, agriculture and corporate. The opening of Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in 2014 makes Sioux Falls more competitive within those sectors on a national and international level, she says, by expanding the complex’s total exhibit space to 132,000 square feet.
The 2018 National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic, expected to bring 25,000 attendees to town next February, is the first big success since the arena opened. “The CVB nurtured its relationship with that group for almost 15 years,” Orsack says. The group’s 2017 show took place in Minneapolis, a city twice the size of Sioux Falls and with a 475,000-sq.-ft. convention center.
Sioux Falls is also working to dispel the notion that its less-populated setting equates to it being a small town. “It’s a vibrant city, and we’ve really elevated the entertainment here,” says Orsack.