In 2015, due to the age and condition of our interstate rest areas, Governor Daugaard commissioned a task force consisting of members from the Department of Tourism and the Department of Transportation to develop and propose a plan for improvements over the next three years and beyond. The result was the creation of the Rest Area Revitalization Plan, which includes a long-term vision for the state’s welcome centers and rest areas:
“South Dakota’s interstate rest areas and welcome centers provide a safe, clean, accessible, and functional place for travelers to rest and rejuvenate. They present a positive impression that is welcoming and delivers educational value for visitors which enhances and extends their stay in South Dakota. The facilities are modern and aesthetically pleasing, while being cost-effective.”
This vision statement has become the basis for many of the welcome center and rest area upgrades. The following press release from November 2016 introduces some of the upgrades that will be implemented:
To view a PDF of the full Rest Area Revitalization Plan, you can visit the following link:
A PDF of the information on this webpage is available via the following link:
The first phase of the Rest Area Revitalization Plan took place in the fall of 2016 with the permanent closure of the Wasta and Tilford information centers. At the end of the 2017 season, we will see the next phase of the plan implemented. In fall 2017, the Wilmot and Vermillion information centers will be temporarily closed for renovations. These two centers will remain closed during the 2018 season, while the remaining centers (New Effington, Salem eastbound and westbound, Chamberlain, Valley Springs, Vivian and Spearfish) will continue to serve visitors in 2018. Once the renovations are complete, the Wilmot and Vermillion welcome centers will reopen for the 2019 season, while the New Effington, Salem eastbound and westbound, and Vivian welcome centers will be permanently closed. Additionally, the Valley Springs information center will be temporarily closed during the 2019 season as it undergoes reconstruction, and will reopen to the public in 2020.
Below is a timetable which helps explain how the Revitalization Plan will affect each center over the next few years.
|New Effington||Open||Open||Information Center: Closed
Rest Area: Open
|Valley Springs||Open||Open||Temporarily Closed
|Salem eastbound||Open||Open||Information Center: Closed
Rest Area: Open
|Salem westbound||Open||Open||Information Center: Closed
Rest Area: Open
|Vivian||Open||Open||Informaton Center: Closed
Rest Area: Open
* Please note that the closure of an information center does not mean that the rest area itself will be closed. The only rest areas that have been permanently closed as a result of the Rest Area Revitalization Plan are the Tilford eastbound and westbound rest areas on Interstate 90 west of Rapid City and the Hidewood southbound and northbound rest areas on Interstate 29 south of Watertown.
Q: What will be done with the material we supplied to the centers that will be closing at the end of the season?
A: Industry partners will be given the opportunity to collect any remaining inventory at the end of the season, which you can arrange by contacting the center supervisors. Any material remaining once the center has closed will be recycled or discarded.
Q: Will there still be lit swaps each year?
A: The lit swaps will continue as usual, and the South Dakota interstate welcome centers will continue to have tables at the lit swaps. Please refer to the timeline, above, to see which centers will be open in a given year. If the timetable indicates that the center will be open, then you will see a table for that center at each lit swap. Keep in mind that the lit swaps are hosted by two of South Dakota’s regional tourism associations and not by the Department of Tourism. The lit swap in Mitchell is hosted by the Southeast South Dakota Tourism Association, while the Rapid City lit swap is hosted by the Black Hills & Badlands Tourism Association. If you have additional questions regarding the lit swaps, you can reach out to the respective association.
Q: Can we still send publications to the centers?
A: Absolutely! Any welcome center that will be open for the season is happy to receive and distribute your publication. Remember that you must register your publication and meet all program requirements before distributing your publication to the centers.
Q: Do we still need to register for the Publication Program?
A: Yes. It is required that all publications be registered through the Department of Tourism. You can review the program requirements and register your publication at SDVisit.com. This webpage will be updated in December 2018 to prepare for the 2019 season.
Q: Will alternate/temporary welcome centers be put into place while the Wilmot, Valley Springs and Vermillion centers are closed for construction?
A: No. While construction is taking place, motorists will not be able to access the rest areas or exits at these locations. However, the Spearfish, Vivian, Chamberlain and Salem welcome centers will remain open to travelers. We will also have state travel counselors at the Black Hill & Badlands Visitor Informaiton Center and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Visitor Center. In addition to providing information, our travel counselors will work hard to promote other visitor centers across the state so that travelers always know where to find information about local attractions.
Q: What alternative advertising opportunities exist if a welcome center we rely on is closing permanently?
A: The Department of Tourism is currently exploring options for placing travel information and signage, to a limited degree, in non-staffed interstate rest areas. This information will consist of state and regional vacation guides, the official SD highway map, and other wayfinding resources. Additionally, the Department of Tourism has partnered with the Black Hills & Badlands Tourism Association and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site to place certified state travel counselors within the visitor information centers at both of these locations. We are always looking for new and creative ways to promote destinations in South Dakota. If you have ideas for other alternative advertising opportunities, we would love to hear them!
Q: What advertising opportunities will be available at the welcome centers?
A: We will continue to offer the Publication Program at all of our welcome centers. Additionally, we are currently exploring various options for new advertising opportunities at the welcome centers. The new facilities will have more space and better technology, which should help to expand our possibilities. If you have any suggestions for advertising opportunities you would like to see made available, please let us know.
Q: Will the new welcome centers charge for advertising?
A: There is currently no plan to charge for any advertising opportunities at the welcome centers. However, we are exploring alternative advertising opportunities that may require a fee. If this is the case, we will ensure that participation rates are fair and affordable for all industry members.
Q: Will the new welcome centers be open year-round?
A: The welcome centers will continue to operate on a seasonal basis. However, depending on the amount of traffic we see at these sites, it is possible that in the future we would consider extending the hours or length of the season in order to meet the needs of our visitors.
Please contact Nate Johnson, Welcome Center Manager, for more information at 605-773-3301 or [email protected].