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Sioux Falls is nice to have around, but it isn't the epicenter of prairie life. Photo by Bernie Hunhoff.
Sioux Falls is nice to have around, but it isn't the epicenter of prairie life. Photo by Bernie Hunhoff.

A Sioux Falls Bias?

Mar 30, 2012

Do rural South Dakotans have an “us agin’ them” attitude about Sioux Falls? Or does paranoia plague people in cities large and small?

The issue arose last weekend when the Sioux Falls Argus Leader published a lengthy article related to negative reactions from the South Dakota High School Activities Association about moving more state tournaments to the soon-to-be-built events center in Sioux Falls. The paper’s editorial began like this:

We’re still in an us vs. them mode in South Dakota. Sioux Falls vs. everyone else. East of the river vs. west. Big vs. little. City vs. country. Perceived winners vs. losers. Reminders of this pop up in some unusual places sometimes, and it is hard not to wonder whether those attitudes hold us back from our potential as a state.

The Argus raises a legitimate question. And if the editors feel that way, then I’m glad they expressed themselves.

But we just don’t see a Sioux Falls bias in our extensive travels from border to border. And that’s because Sioux Falls leaders and citizens haven’t been pushy. They haven’t been bullies or braggarts.

The Sioux Falls metro area now has about 230,000 people, nearly 30% of South Dakota’s total population. But the city hasn’t pushed its weight around either the state or the region. Like a wealthy and kindly uncle, it’s just nice to have around. It hasn’t overwhelmed the state politically or commercially.

Usually the metro citizenry votes much the same as the rural population. Sioux Falls lawmakers are gaining strength in the state capitol due to the city’s growth, but they haven’t visibly formed any sort of metro caucus, formally or informally. And many if not most of them have roots in smaller towns and cities.

Sioux Falls has an excellent education system, but the city also hasn’t dominated in that department because the two biggest public universities are an hour’s drive north and south.

Culturally, the city isn’t the epicenter of prairie life, either. It has too much concrete, too many lights, too much neon. South Dakota’s culture is rooted in the bawdy Black Hills, the displaced Lakota and Dakota Indians, the struggling farmer and rancher and the dwindling small towns. We write poems and songs about adversity and hard times. Sioux Falls doesn’t seem to inspire those popular South Dakota themes.

Economically, Sioux Falls is crucial to South Dakota. It has become the city of opportunity for thousands of young people who couldn’t find a good job in the small towns were they were born and raised. Their parents are glad they didn’t have to go further from home to be successful. But again, Sioux Falls doesn’t rule the state. We don’t all cash checks at branches of Sioux Falls banks. We don’t all eat at restaurants created and based in Sioux Falls. From a business standpoint, the city is important and supportive but not all-powerful.

Sioux Falls has a colorful history, but it lacks the characters that forever will link Yankton and Deadwood and Fort Pierre with the Old West. Sioux Falls didn’t build its reputation on shootings and hangings. In the early years, its leaders tended to business and grew a city on the prairie.

Claiming bias is an easy excuse for not getting your way on any particular issue. Democrats and Libertarians seldom get their way. Conservationists and sportsmen sometimes feel ignored. Farmers believe they are overtaxed and underappreciated. Women didn’t even get to vote until 1918, and our Native American neighbors don’t always feel like they get a fair shake.

There are pros and cons to playing all our basketball tournaments in one city. The debate shouldn’t be short-circuited by a “nobody likes me” excuse because l) it’s not true and 2) even if it was true, it wouldn’t be very effective in our rugged, fight-for-yourself culture.


12:26 pm - Fri, March 30 2012
Rapid City has an awesome facility in the Rushmore Event Center. When Madison played in the State A Tournament out west three years ago, the place was full of maroon and white fans. This year I saw empty seats for the State AA Tournament. The bigger schools couldn't draw the fans the same way the State A or State B Tournaments can.
01:28 pm - Fri, March 30 2012
Roy Lindsay said:
When I listened to the discussions about having all of the events held in the bigger cities, the main reason that seemed to come to the surface was the increased revenue generated from spectator attendance. I also agree with Michael Black's comments on attendance at the A and B tournaments. Smaller schools do not get to participate as often as the AA's and tend to have a larger spectator following, not just people from the small towns but also the larger cities. If the A and B tournaments are the more profitable, is it fair to take those revenues from the smaller towns for the benefit of the larger cities, or are the projections that the A and B tournaments would become even more profitable if held in the larger cities for greater attendance figures?
01:38 pm - Fri, March 30 2012
floyd r turbo said:
Sioux Falls may have not been a bully in the past, but with this issue, you have to wonder. What are they going to do next? Take our guns away?
02:45 pm - Fri, March 30 2012
Bob Hurd said:
The SDHSAA is proposing to move many events to a facility that will seat 12,000+ fans. Not even the most competetive tournament needs that many seats. They are also proposing using three weekends to contest the basketball tournaments. This would be at the expense of the spring sports that are already dealing with short seasons due to our weather and the school calender. Does the influence of the Sioux Falls based "Corporate Partners" have anything to do with this proposal?
03:11 pm - Fri, March 30 2012
Sam Jibben said:
I've lived in several towns around the state. The one thing thats always drawn me back to Sioux Falls has been employment. It's easy to find work here, even easier than our neighboring states. I feel the only reason the tournaments are held here is due to accomadations, large choice of hotels to room at with in just a few miles. Sioux Falls has its own down points, just a few being the rising crime rate, the education difference between small town schools and the cities crowded classes. There are a lot of residents that seem to forget about the smaller towns, especially when it comes to events or even political matters. They seem to get wrapped up in the blanket of the fast paced city life and forget the small town views.
04:32 pm - Fri, March 30 2012
Joe Bohlmann said:
Growing up in the Black Hills I have never cared much for Sioux Falls.Nothing personal, just too many people in one place. I think hosting the state tournaments should be rotated within the towns that are in their respective rankings. I have never felt Sioux Falls has ever had any impact on my personal life. I sometimes joke about west river having to live with the laws east river makes but understand the population difference; I prefer most people would live east river, less crowded out here that way.
04:58 pm - Fri, March 30 2012
Roger Bowie said:
Growing up in Nebraska, we were coming from the opposite direction. As a high school basketball player, my dream, like most others, was to play at the Devaney Center in Lincoln. Our team came up 2 games short. The aura of playing in Lincoln though was amazing. Not only can you watch teams in your class play, but you also have the opportunity to watch anyone from the other 5 classes in a weekend. One thing Nebraska learned from SD a couple of years ago was to add the consolation games. Once I experienced that in SD, I wrote letters asking why NE couldn't do the same. A few years ago, state wrestling was moved to the Century Link Center in Omaha. State volleyball used to be held at the University of Nebraska-Kearney and is now held in Grand Island. State football used to alternate from west to east but are now played at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. That being said, I understand the concern by communities outside of Sioux Falls losing that revenue. Do you take state football and start a rotating schedule outside of the Dakota Dome? It's a tough call.
06:51 am - Mon, April 2 2012
Jon said:
There has been a Sioux Falls bias since the 1950s and before. It was always the largest-Washingotn High School was (rumor has it) the largest High School in the country in the early 60s. With size comes lots of advantages, and with small town evironment comes lots of comfort and great memories.I became a Minnesotan in 1971 and have fond memories of South Dakota and very few of them are of Sioux Falls. It was South Dakota's largest city at 62,000.Remember Sioux Falls is having the induction to the South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame April 21, at the Ramkota. It is a great time and in Sioux Falls even it has a bias.Go South Dakota and Sioux Falls..

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