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Siouxland Expo Center Sees Interest Since Opening, But Pandemic Slows Things Down

The Siouxland Expo Center has been open for more than a week in Sioux City, and has so far hosted flag football games and a fundraiser.
Norm Waitt Sr. YMCA Facebook page
The Siouxland Expo Center has been open for more than a week in Sioux City, and has so far hosted flag football games and a fundraiser.

A new multipurpose venue in Sioux City has been used for small events ever since it opened earlier this month. Those involved in the project say the Siouxland Expo Center has had a slow start because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the "future is bright."

Sioux City Parks and Recreation Director Matt Salvatore said construction is finishing up on the building. Protective netting for soccer and other sports still needs to be installed in the arena to divide the turf into fields and protect the walls and spectators.

The Siouxland Expo Center has still been able to hold a few smaller events: a Sept. 18 grand opening, a fundraiser and the YMCA’s flag football. But the hope is to use it for larger events like farm and equipment shows and an annual home builders show. The goal is to host 14 major events each year.

“So we’re kind of easing into things,” Salvatore said. “We hope once November hits that we’ll work with different event planners and renters to open up our schedule a little bit and allow more activities to happen, especially transitioning with the weather.”

The $15 million Siouxland Expo Center is a 100,000 square-foot building that contains an 80,000-square foot arena for sports and events. The arena is about the size of a football field, Salvatore said, and its indoor temperature controlled environment will allow for winter activities. He said being able to play sports year-round at this facility will benefit kids’ health and wellness.

“Typically if a kid is not involved in a winter activity, they would just sit at home all winter and wait for the weather to turn, but now they have a permanent location where they're going to be able to do activities year-round,” Salvatore said. “I think that will have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of our youth.”

Dirk Lohry, the president of the expo center board, said he’s excited about the future and the large-scale events to come. But he acknowledged the center has opened in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. “An expo center is about bringing people together,” Lohry said. “And COVID-19 is about keeping people apart.”

Lohry said the large arena will allow for people to social distance, 6 feet apart. But for now, it will be tough getting lots of people to come for large events, like a farm show, he said.

“It’s not because we can’t schedule it or we can’t plan it,” Lohry said. “It’s because we aren’t sure whether the public wants to be involved in that where there’s an awful lot of interaction.”

Lohry said a lot of larger events are booked a year or so in advance, so he’s excited about the long term and the expected economic boost that will come from bringing people into Sioux City.

"Not to mention, people can stay in Sioux City now, instead of going to these types of events in Omaha and in Sioux Falls," Lohry said. "There is a good economic benefit to the people in Sioux City by [visitors spending] money in our hotels, restaurants and our shopping centers."

The expo center has also received inquiries about hosting college and high school football practice.

"The future is bright," Salvatore said. "It's just getting these last few things done and getting past this pandemic. I'm really excited about what this facility is going to do for Siouxland."

Years ago, the center was planned as a venue for equestrian and agriculture events, but then was shifted to a multipurpose venue.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.