$5M Outlaw Square slated for soft opening week of Nov. 25

Although affected by wintry weather, the Outlaw Square project remains on budget and is slated to open in less than a month. Pioneer photo by Jaci Conrad Pearson

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DEADWOOD — City officials are looking forward to a long-awaited big day in Deadwood, as the $5 million Outlaw Square project is slated to open the week of Nov. 25, with a grand opening planned for a later date.

“It’s been a moving date with all the snow we’ve had,” said Historic Preservation Officer Kevin Kuchenbecker. “We’re looking at the synthetic ice to be delivered the week of Nov. 13, so a soft opening the week of Nov. 25, with a grand opening planned for Friday, Dec. 6, at which time there will be a dedication and community Christmas tree lighting.”

Located at the corner of Deadwood and Main streets, the new outdoor space will provide downtown patrons with a place in which to mix and mingle, catch a concert, event, or even ice skate.

With the weather of late, Outlaw Square may not even need the synthetic ice that’s on order, as the job site has unwittingly been a snow-filled skating rink.

Kuchenbecker said the most recent snowstorm saw 10 truckloads of snow removed from the square.

“So we’ll pray for good weather,” Kuchenbecker said. “While we can see the end, the weather is frustrating. As we near completion of the project, we are excited to have this venue open up in November/December for the community to enjoy.”

On Oct. 21, the Deadwood City Commission approved items that, combined, will put one of the finishing and most eagerly anticipated touches on the square the ice-skating rink and its ancillary items.

Permission was granted to pay Glice USA $73,930.15, the remaining 50% of a previously-approved contract, to be paid from Outlaw Square bonded funds, as well as $2,560.80 to the company for a steel shipping container to be used for storage, to be paid from Historic Preservation capital assets.

Permission was also granted to reallocate funds from the site furnishings line item of the contingency budget for Outlaw Square in the amount of $17,623. These funds will be used to purchase necessary supplies, equipment, and associated site furnishings in preparation for the opening of the public gathering space. Funds were previously approved in the total contract, but this allows for the items to be purchased directly from vendors.

The shipping container holding all the components for Deadwood’s new synthetic ice skating rink is actually arriving from overseas and will be one gigantic Christmas present for the community.

“It is scheduled to arrive in Chicago from Luzern, Switzerland, on Friday,” Kuchenbecker said. “A shipping container off the high seas.”

He said the site is shaping up rather nicely, with the final touches being placed on Outlaw Square over the next month.

“The concrete along Hickok’s (Hotel and Gaming) is being placed. Asphalt emulsion is being put on Deadwood Street for preparation of the pavers. The last of the concrete by the restrooms remains to be done,” Kuchenbecker said. “The gallows is installed; the gazebo is up with minimal painting remaining to be done; the audio, speakers, and other components for the stage are being installed; the restrooms and green room/office are nearing completion. We’re just about less than one month out from completion, weather permitting. Site amenities have been ordered and signage is in process. While the construction schedule has been impacted by the weather, the budget has continued on track.”

The square comes at a cost of around $5 million and took many community and state partnerships to bring to fruition.

A $2 million original commitment was made by the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission in the fall of 2017, contingent upon the Main Street Initiative Committee securing matching funds to get the project off the ground.

The project was green lighted in October 2018, as then-Gov. Dennis Daugaard committed the full $2 million required to match the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission’s commitment, and combined, the $4 million in funding finally brings the project to fulfillment. 

“The total project, including realignment of Deadwood and Shine streets and city creek retaining wall brings the total of the project to $4.8 million,” said Kuchenbecker. “This will be a great addition to the community, particularly the residents and youth, to provide a public gathering space, or outdoor living room for recreational, historical, and entertainment venues.”

Key partners include Deadwood Historic Preservation, the state of South Dakota, city of Deadwood, Deadwood Lead Economic Development, and others. 

“This project is paid for through Deadwood Historic Preservation and state of South Dakota future funds,” Kuchenbecker said. “This is a monumental project of the Main Street Initiative, a city-wide revitalization effort for Deadwood, which is a public/private partnership.”

Both a culminating and crowning moment for an ongoing four-year commitment to bring a “Main Street square” to town, involving members of the Main Street Initiative, formerly the Deadwood Revitalization Committee, a sub-committee of the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce,

Bill Pearson, chairman of the Main Street Initiative, said it has been a persistent effort to reach the goal of providing Deadwood residents and tourists a place to gather and interact with the history of Deadwood.

“It was a concerted effort and a never-give-up attitude that got the job done and this should spark the revitalization of Deadwood’s Main Street through retail development and increased traffic, which is the mission of the Deadwood Revitalization Committee,” he said. 

The facility is being constructed through the direction of the city of Deadwood and the Chamber of Commerce will manage Outlaw Square operations, leasing the property from the city.

“We’ve already started booking events in there and are acquiring sponsors,” said Deadwood Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lee Harstad. “Pre-opening work is also in-process. The chamber is responsible for generating the operations budget, which is $520,000 for 2020, for everything from administration, equipment, and events, to marketing and insurance.”

Harstad said that examples of Outlaw Square activities include ice-skating, a holiday bazaar, craft fair event, broomball tournament, various winter events, ice carving, Monday movie night, history programs, and Wednesday concert series, for starters.

Harstad credited the Main Street Initiative for championing the square and seeing it through to completion.

“It was a group of highly-committed individuals that had a vision of this,” Harstad said. “The closer it gets to being complete, the way more exciting it gets. It’s exciting, but with that comes more responsibilities for us because we always strive to be at the top of the game. We have the pressure to perform, and that’s OK. I like to think we do well under pressure.”

Harstad said that while opening the square is around the corner, the chamber is still looking for a few good partners.

“We have secured partners that we’re very excited about and we’re working on additional sponsors for the square,” Harstad said. “We’re not looking for a lot of various business and organizations to be part of it, we’re just looking for a few that will see a grand impact. We don’t want the square to be over branded. We want it to continue with Deadwood preservation policies that have been set. We want to have things blend. So, having a few key partners will help us in that, and we are looking for a couple to add to the roster.”

In the location of the former Franklin Motor Lodge and where Deadwood City Hall sat in 1952, the area was transformed into a public gathering space.

As part of the project, Deadwood Street will be realigned to meet Shine Street and the Franklin Motor Lodge was demolished to make way for such features as an ice-skating rink, fire pit, water component, and event stage, as well as public restrooms, a multipurpose gazebo, storage, turf, and historic features. 

“Of course, being in a National Historic Landmark District, it will be compatible with the historic district’s wood and masonry brick construction,” said Kuchenbecker. “For example, the feature wall is reminiscent of the original city hall. The three arches over the fire department bays, the brick and stone details, are what mimic the design of the original Deadwood City Hall, built in 1889.”

Removable bollards are being installed as part of the project.

“Deadwood Street is getting rebuilt with the ability to close and open, depending on the event,” Kuchenbecker said. “The curb on the west side of Deadwood Street will be a zero curb line, transitioning from the plaza into the street. On the northeast side will be a raised curb or traditional street curb.”

Deadwood Street now realigns to Shine Street, with a wider sidewalk on the Hickock’s side, which will allow for additional seating.

“We’ll plant between nine and 10 trees on both sides and public art will be featured on the corner of Deadwood and Main Street on the Hickok’s side,” Kuchenbecker said. “On the west side of Deadwood Street and the south side of Main (Street) will be an entrance that resembles a gallows and a water feature, which will be five small fountains and water-fed out of a rocker box, which would have been used in the placer mining days. There will be seating under the gallows and the Outlaw Square sign will be hung by rope.”

Viewing the stage, an elevation change will benefit audience members, allowing for a variety of seating areas and electrical infrastructure to accommodate a variety of events.

Kuchenbecker said there are seven miles of underground infrastructure in the project, including water, gas, electric, sewer, and storm lines that crisscross the site.

“The infield will have interchangeable artificial turf and synthetic ice,” he said. “And tent anchors that will hold three 20-by-40 (foot) tents or 40 10-by-10 (foot) tents. Lighting and music can be controlled with an IPAD and a community Christmas tree will be installed along Main Street. In the winter season, plans are to have various gas fire pits and warming areas for skaters.”

The northwest corner of the square will be a gazebo that is a replica of an 1890s gazebo that was on Lee and Pioneer way. A heated sidewalk will provide a snowmelt system along the front of the restroom and stage area that will allow for the removal of snow.

A mechanical and storeroom will provide wireless internet access for users, visitors, and residents. A small cell phone tower will be installed on the site, which will boost cell service for Verizon users.

An Americans with Disabilities compliant accessible ramp to the stage is also part of the project and the Main Street Initiative is currently in the process of raising funds to purchase a 9-foot-by-16-foot portable television screen that will be mobilized for movie nights.

“The stage is built with steel and heavy timbers that are complimentary with the new Deadwood Welcome Center that will allow for bands, such as Cheap Trick and other bands typical of the Deadwood Jam caliber,” Kuckenbecker said.

A green room with its own private bathroom, a director’s office, and sound room are also part of the new facility, as well as public bathrooms and interpretive panels throughout the site.

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