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June 30, 2019
“I’m so proud of my city.”
That’s a direct quote, but I can’t attribute it to one person because I’ve heard the exact same words so many times lately from so many people.
There’s a reason I’m writing this at 4 p.m. Friday, and it’s because there has been so much to cover recently that I’m struggling to keep up.
Something has changed – for the better – in a very palpable way. I feel it all over downtown. It’s energy mixed with civic pride, thanks to a lot of little and not-so-little things that are coming together at the same time.
It started this spring, with the addition of the first piece of Arc of Dreams. That single piece of steel drew more excitement, photo-sharing and conversation than even I anticipated.
The momentum continued to build this month, with the opening of Levitt at the Falls. I was there opening night and watched the lawn nearly overflow with people. Over and over, I heard comments about what a welcome addition this was to downtown.
There’s a powerful mission behind the Levitt organization. It’s based around the idea that community can be built around free music and education as a diverse audience finds common ground.
And that’s what I have seen beginning to happen there, as this free venue is drawing a broad cross-section of our community, and people who wouldn’t usually cross paths are sharing a common excitement and pride that they’re part of our city’s newest venue.
Then came last week’s announcement that the State Theatre will reopen as soon as next spring, thanks to a $3.5 million gift from Denny Sanford and a proposed $1.5 million city contribution.
“The timing on this is perfect,” Sanford said at Wednesday’s announcement, as he talked about the recent rejuvenation of downtown.
“It’s become a hotbed of activity reminiscent of the distant past,” he said.
“The crown jewel will once again shine throughout the entire community.”
And speaking of Sanford, to end the week came the news that Sanford Health intends to merge with Iowa-based UnityPoint Health, creating an organization based in Sioux Falls with $11 billion in annual revenue and 83,000 employees.
Think about that. Even a few short years ago, would you have believed that Sioux Falls would be home to an entity of that magnitude? That’s what happens when an organization keeps taking the calculated leaps of faith required to fulfill a vision.
It’s appropriate that the same day the letter of intent to merge between those organizations was signed, the second half of Arc of Dreams was installed.
Arc of Dreams pays tribute to the dreamers of the past and present, and is meant to inspire dreamers for generations to come. The gap between the two sides represents the leap of faith required to make a dream a reality.
Sioux Falls leaders, public and private, past and present, have taken many such leaps over time. I suspect they’re planning others today. We, as a community, have challenged ourselves to be greater tomorrow than we are today. We have thought bigger, invested more and partnered in stronger ways than many other communities, and it’s paying off.
“Sioux Falls has been so good for me,” said Sanford at the State Theatre donation announcement.
“It’s payback time.”
Our shared challenge, as I see it, is to harness the energy and momentum we’re witnessing at all levels of our community – from excited citizen to the invested CEO — and use that energy to accomplish even more.
There has been talk lately about the need for a consistent community brand. My mind now keeps coming back to something Paul Schiller coined as he helped champion Arc of Dreams.
“We now live in the City of Dreams,” he said to me just last week.
The storyteller marketer in me loves the possibilities that name delivers, but it also sounds a little bold for Sioux Falls, doesn’t it? Maybe thinking a little big for a humble town that works hard but sometimes struggles to tout its successes? Or maybe not.
Whatever we end up dubbing ourselves, there has to be truth in advertising. And lately I’m inclined to think this name might just fit, that the moniker just might match the sort of place we’ve become.
Because I’m sensing it more and more in this community: When you dream big here, those dreams can come true.
“I’m so proud of my city.” Maybe you’ve heard it lately. Maybe you’ve said it. There’s a growing sense of energy mixed with civic pride, thanks to a lot of little and not-so-little things that are coming together at the same time.