Gun range, road course, burn tower: Take a tour of what will be South Dakota's top public safety training center
$55M complex for Sioux Falls fire, area law enforcement to open next year
Area firefighters and police will soon have a Phillips Avenue-like cityscape to sharpen their skills on.
But that’s just a small part of the $55-million public safety campus being built by the city of Sioux Falls and Minnehaha County in northeast Sioux Falls, which will also have a six-story burn tower and other tactical training structures, a 13-acre road course, a 50-yard indoor shooting range and another 42 acres of space to grow.
“This is going to enable us to do so much more,” Sioux Falls Police Capt. Jeff Garden said during a tour of the 19-acre site along 60th Street North near Veterans Parkway.
Since the late 1970s, the city has used the V.L. Crusinberry Regional Training Center on the airport campus to conduct its primary training exercises. But that facility began to show its age and in 2017 was deemed unsuitable for the city’s long-term training needs. Today, the burn-tower that stands there isn’t structurally sound enough to withstand controlled burns for firefighters.
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That’s why the city partnered with the county on the yet-to-be named public safety campus on track to open in October 2023.
Like the V.L. Crusinberry Regional Training Center, the new digs will have classroom training space, a shooting range and tactical training areas. But it’ll be far more advanced.
For instance, the shooting range near the airport is an open-air range, whereas the new one will be enclosed with air-quality controls and equipped with 15 shooting lanes capable of targets as far away as 50 yards. That means it’ll accommodate target practice for any type of weapon used by law enforcement – from pistols to rifles and everything in between, Garden said.
For firefighter training, a new burn tower that can handle what are called Class A burns – real burning of wood and straw – and an urban search and rescue area with a concrete house and a structural collapse setting will up Sioux Falls Fire Rescue’s game, Division Chief Steve Fessler said.
“Compared to the current facility we have, it’ll be a night and day difference,” he said. “It’ll be an amazing thing for our individuals to be able to train off of.”
The road course, formally referred to as an “emergency vehicle operations course” (EVOC), will be used by both firefighters and law enforcement, including the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office.
Right now, area police don’t even use what’s at the airport facility, instead using space at the W.H. Lyons Fairgrounds. And with a space of their own, Garden said the department won’t have to schedule around fairground events or worry about inconveniently placed light poles.
The public safety campus will also house Metro Communications, the region’s primary 911 dispatch agency. And the move will bring employees who work there out of the cramped quarters they’ve been working in now at the Minnehaha County jail facility in downtown Sioux Falls.
Metro Communications Director Scott McMahon said right now, his staff is confined to a 4,500-square-foot space – with central dispatch control having 13 consoles. But when the new facility opens, they’ll have 16,000 square feet and 32 consoles.
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While all of those won’t be used right away, he said that space is being built based on the region’s projected growth and future public safety needs.
All that combines, hopefully, to create a working environment that’s more appealing, a change that can’t hurt in a competitive hiring market, McMahon said.
“We’re anticipating that this space, this technology and this investment into public safety will help us at Metro Communications to attract and retain 911 professionals,” he said. “But it’ll also provide us the day-to-day workspace that we need as well as training space to make sure that we can train our 911 professionals to their highest capability.”
See aerial drone footage of the construction project by clicking the link: