MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) — The Mitchell City Council has approved plans for a $7.2 million renovation and expansion of the city's Corn Palace tourist attraction.
Council members voted 7-0 on Monday night to approve the two-phase plan, which includes color-changing domes, larger murals and a walk-out balcony above the marquee. Architectural designs will now be created.
"Frankly, we think it needs to be exciting," said Doug Dailey, chairman of the Next Generation Corn Palace Committee. "We think the lights and the domes give us that excitement."
The plan's first phase involves improving the current Corn Palace, at a cost of $4.1 million. Construction could start next year, according to The Daily Republic newspaper (http://bit.ly/148vW9A ). The city recently sold $13.9 million in bonds, of which $6.5 million was earmarked for the Corn Palace project.
The $3.1 million second phase involves renovating the City Hall building, which is connected to the north side of the Corn Palace and will be vacated when a new city hall is built in another area.
Councilman Mel Olson questioned whether the council should approve plans for the second phase and possibly tie the hands of a future City Council, but Dailey said approving the plans now would mean designs would be ready for city leaders once that portion of the project was ready to move forward.
"I think you have to have a plan for the whole place," he said. "Without it, we're back to, 'What do we want to do?'"
The original Corn Palace in Mitchell was established in 1892 when settlers displayed the fruits of their harvest on the building. The third and current building was completed in 1921. The corn decorations are stripped each year and new murals are created. It takes about 275,000 ears of corn to decorate the building, which attracts about 200,000 tourists each year.