Former mayor asks Watertown city officials to delay selling showmobile

May 16, 2023

Mike Tanner

WATERTOWN, S.D.–On Monday night, the Watertown City Council gave approval to the city to declare surplus, the showmobile, and authorized the city to accept sealed bids from parties interested in buying it.

The showmobile is a portable stage that’s hauled to various events around Watertown from Thursday Night Live to Cookin’ On Kampeska.

Some previous events that have utilized the showmobile will now be able to use the stage at the new Community Foundation Plaza on Kemp Avenue.

But the city will also have the right to reject any or all bids for the showmobile.

Former Mayor Sarah Caron (pictured) has written city officials, asking that the city hold off on the sale.

KWAT News also received a copy of the letter, the text of which is below:

Firstly, I’m not sure that the Municipal Band will fit on the stage of the downtown park. This is something I brought up with Confluence, the City’s consultant, during the design phase when I was the mayor. The stage was required to be at least as big as the showmobile. I think it is, but the proposed dimensions were different (narrower but deeper). When I discussed that with the architect, changing the concept was going to be a pretty big deal; they had done their best to fit everything in and a wider stage would add significant cost and reduce other amenities. I don’t know how it ended up in final design. I certainly envisioned holding the weekly band concerts downtown at the new park, but not everyone agreed with me, and the feeling was that if the band doesn’t fit in the new band shell, the showmobile could continue to be used out at the lake. Please make sure the band fits before getting rid of the showmobile.

Secondly, selling the showmobile will harm the ability of our community to have events at other locations. I don’t know how or how often it has been used, but a check of the records will quickly reveal the history. I have seen it at the Redlin Art Center, Jenkins, the stadium, and most often at city park. I know there have been other uses as well. It should not be a decision based solely on expense and effort to make it available. Public services improve our quality of life and usually don’t pay for themselves as you well know. It would not be a lucrative private business to offer a mobile stage, so once the city sells ours, there may no longer be an option for folks needing a mobile stage.

Thirdly, the Foundation Plaza will be large enough and appropriate to host most events downtown, but not all. Street festivals and dances adjacent to businesses have been popular and lucrative for the adjacent businesses. To eliminate or limit those events because they don’t fit in our new park would be detrimental to the collective livelihood of our unique downtown and our whole community. While most Thursday Night Live events might fit, the most popular events probably would not. It is an artificial limitation to force all events to occur in the new park.

Our beautiful new Foundation Plaza brings a whole new world of opportunity and satisfies most of our needs for the showmobile, but not all. Eliminating the showmobile unnecessarily limits the range of events that can be held and thereby reduces our cumulative quality of life.

Finally, we have already made the investment in the showmobile. It is a beneficial amenity for our community so we should keep and maintain it at least long enough to verify that it no longer serves an important purpose.

Please reject the bids and wait a little longer before selling the showmobile. 

Best Regards,

Sarah Caron 

A ribbon cutting at Foundation Plaza is being held on Thursday, May 25th at 11:30 a.m.