The roar and whine of motorcycle and economic engines

South Dakota State Roundup

Published October 1, 2000  | October 2000 issue

Grown from wilder days, the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis now represents an engine of economic growth for the town of roughly 6,000. Reports on this year's rally called it the largest ever, with an estimated 500,000 in town for all or part of the two-week event.

From T-shirts to hotel rooms to food, rallygoers plunked down more than $10 million in sales tax alone, according to Argus Leader reports. Land values along Main Street, where the heart of the rally takes place, have skyrocketed by tenfold, or more, since the 1980s.

Ironically, the related hike in property taxes has created vacancies on Main Street. Given the 50 nonrally weeks of the year, and the profits of catering to the motorcycle throng, it's been suggested that some businesses move from Main Street during the event to allow rally-related vendors to take advantage of sales opportunities.

The rally also has its costs to taxpayers, consuming about one-fourth of the city's $4 million annual budget. Despite about $1 million earmarked for this year's rally, the city faces a $250,000 revenue shortfall, created by increased rally-related costs.