NEW HEIGHTS: The Summit at The Monument is a 10,000-seat arena that opened in 2021 in Rapid City, South Dakota. (Courtesy venue)
Early Booking Woes Ease at Rapid City Facility
With the opening of a new arena approaching in 2021, Craig Baltzer, executive director of the Rapid City, South Dakota, facility was on the hunt for a top tier act with money to spend.
Trouble was, none were on the road to play the $130 million Summit at the Monument, a 10,000-capacity venue and booking agencies were shuttered, Baltzer said.
“We really wanted to have a sizable act to come in here,” he said. “We knew we were not going to match Elvis (who opened Rushmore Plaza Civic Center) back in 1977, but at the time, William Morris Agency and Creative Artists Agency weren’t open.”
It was six months prior to the November 2021 opening, and Baltzer and his staff “used every connection we had,” knowing they would have to pay higher prices to bring in an act.
“It was a struggle,” he said. “I remember making 20 to 30 offers, almost all of them $1 million-plus, and trying to find that name recognition opening act. We started at the top: ‘Let’s offer The Rolling Stones some money,’ and that that came in too high. ‘Let’s see if George Strait will come back off of his retirement.” Too high. Justin Bieber. Just about anything mainstream and large, we were looking for, working our way through the lists and making offers. Some offers were $750,000. We went as high as $1.8 million to $2.2 million.”
The opening act turned out to be Zac Brown.
“That was a great name for us to open the arena with,” Baltzer said. “After that, the bookings started coming in and as we rounded out 2021 and got into 2022, things were starting to book on their own. We got Morgan Wallen right away.”
Back when Elvis opened the civic center in 1977, the city-owned and operated complex consisted of a basketball arena and convention space, plus Lacroix Hall with a banquet room and a fine arts theater.
In the 1980s, Rushmore Hall was added, followed by a food court, restaurant and additional convention space in the form of a larger, 40,000-square-foot room with meeting rooms above.
In 2008, an ice arena with a 5,000-capacity for hockey and 6,500 for concerts was added. It’s currently the home rink of the ECHL Rapid City Rush.
The latest addition was the Summit, where Zac Brown played. Perkins & Will designed the newer arena, which stands out for club seats and loge boxes all situated on the building’s north side. There are no suites.
“We did not open the new building with a plan for a tenant in there, because we weren’t necessarily looking for another,” Baltzer said. “But in our first year, we did get an arena football team in there, the Rapid City Marshals of Champions Indoor Football. They just completed their second year.”
He said, “On one level, we compete with Casper, Wyoming, and Billings, Montana. On another level, we compete with Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Denver. Sioux Falls is a much bigger market and Denver, being even much bigger than that, we compete with some of their venues. Those venues are all five to six hours away.”
Priscilla Dominguez, the Summit’s director of corporate sales and marketing, said, “It’s a regular thing to have people drive for three to four hours for an event here. For us, that’s local market. That’s who we’re trying to reach on a consistent basis. Our tenant teams have season-ticket holders from that far away that come for every game and major event we do.”
Baltzer said with Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills and other attractions in the area, many out of town visitors add an event to their vacation.
“One of the most shocking things to me when I took the job here eight years ago is how far we draw,” Baltzer said. “When we’re meeting people at the door at the Morgan Wallen concert, for example, it does not surprise me at all that we’re seeing our tickets being sold by the hundreds in places like California, Florida and Georgia. For that particular concert, 50% of the people came from outside of the state.”