Onward Yankton has announced the fifteen semifinalists in its contest to discover Yankton’s next big idea. The local development brainstorming initiative received 508 submissions from around the country; the top 15, as decided by the Onward Yankton Steering Committee, now appear atop the first two pages of the website, in no particular order.
Nine of the fifteen top ideas come from Yankton. Two more come from Utica, just up the road. Two more come from South Dakota. One comes from Texas, and one comes from Philadelphia.
One person, Carmen Schramm of Utica, made the cut with two proposals. Schramm proposes historical murals all over town. With her neighbor Marcy Jones, Schramm proposes a four-season entertainment complex at Chalkstone Hill on the southwest corner of town, complete with natural amphitheater, a restored Fort Yankton, sports fields, and a “flagship hotel.” I love the arts (and so do some of the other semifinalists), but I suggest that a big multi-use enterntainment complex is a much bigger idea than the murals.
Three ideas focus on Mount Marty College. The college itself proposes working with Yankton to boost enrollment 50% and keep more grads in town for careers. Jacob Fokken sees Mount Marty as an essential partner in his plan to make Yankton the “Missouri River Capital of Entrepreneurship.” Senator Billie Sutton and his wife Kelsea include Mount Marty in the assets Yankton should marshal to make Yankton the “Best City in America for Children.”
Fokken’s plan also calls for a “downtown creative district” with more restaurants, housing (fix up those second floors, like Aberdeen is thinking, but even better, since in Yankton, you get a view of the river!), and start-up business space. Several other plans get bonus points from me for recognizing the importance of downtown development (Heart of the City, people!).
The Suttons’ kid-friendly plan overlaps with a proposal from Trevor Goeden of Yankton to convert a downtown building into a children’s museum and science center. See? Brookings had a spectacular idea that everyone wants to copy!
Philadelphia architect Benjamin Hovland starts his plan for downtown development with a proposal to build a public park from downtown to Gavins Point Dam. (Coincidentally, Yankton Press & Dakotan editor Kelly Hertz just posted an editorial calling for Yankton to look west and more intentionally develop the Lewis and Clark Lake area.) Nick Moser says build a nature trail and bike path from Yankton to Vermillion. I say build trails west and east… and then go big and run a bike trail north along the James River all the way to Mitchell! (Heck, just getting to Olivet, the second-smallest county seat in South Dakota, would be kind of cool.)
Bruce Cull of Yankton proposes making the big archery center in Yankton an Olympic training facility. Archery is bringing people and money to town; Cull says Yankton could expand on that by offering getting Olympic designation not just for archery but also for air rifle and BMX (which yes, are Olympic sports, too).
Yankton has a lot of good ideas; the challenge now will be picking one out of all the rest as the winner of this contest. Onward Yankton will invite five finalists from these fifteen to speak about their ideas in Yankton in August. Then in September, Onward Yankton will pick a winner, who will receive $10,000… just for thinking of a really good idea.