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Looking Back: Holiday Inn’s Solar Dome

Eric Renshaw, For the Argus Leader 2:43 p.m. CDT April 19, 2016

The Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn at West Avenue and Russell Street was built in 1962.(Photo: Photo courtesy of GreetingsFromSiouxFalls.com)

As a child, I spent many a vacation day crowded into our family s little Volvo with my sisters. We d drive our parents crazy with cries of, “Stop touching me!!!” from the back seat. Only occasionally would the threats to pull the car over come to fruition. The sight of the neon Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn sign after hundreds of miles of hills and unairconditioned boredom brought squeals of joy from the backseat. There was usually a pool to enjoy, and once the bags were brought in from the car, the kids could get out of our parents’ hair for a bit and splash around.

The first Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn in Sioux Falls was built in 1962 at the southeast corner of West Avenue and Russell Street by Dakotah House Inc. and was leased to Topeka Inn Management Inc. The Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn Airport had 148 rooms and a grassy center courtyard with plenty of places for sunbathing around the clover-shaped pool. There were tables with patio umbrellas for those who wanted a break from the summer sun. This courtyard would go unused in the winter months, which, at times, it seems we have too many of. In 1972, the 10-year-old motel saw improvements.

Behold the Solar Dome! It was the same great hotel experience you d come to love, but the 22,000-foot courtyard was put under a roof. Year-round swimming and more could be enjoyed for the first time in South Dakota. Manager Roger Poling promised that the enclosed area would be kept at 78 degrees year-round so guests of the motel could enjoy a full-size swimming pool, sun deck, sauna, whirlpool, sun lamps, putting green, ping-pong and pool tables. Did I mention the poolside beverage service? The change to the courtyard was only the beginning. There was also an upgrade to the food service at the Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn.

It was formerly provided by Aristo Foods, a national food service chain not unlike Aramark. The upgraded Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn had its own in-house food preparation staff and hosted special events to underline this. The festivities started off with a Hawaiian buffet featuring roast suckling pig, barbecued pork loin, baked halibut, glazed ham and salmon mousse. This was served luau-style with service staff in grass skirts while Tony Saia provided the music on the organ. The Dakotah House restaurant and Red Rock Lounge were also new to the Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn Airport experience. Live music was a regular happening at the Red Rock.

For years, out of towers and locals alike enjoyed the Solar Dome, though they stopped calling it that after awhile. Birthday parties at the Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn were a regular thing for years, but the upkeep started to fall behind. The popcorn ceilings in the rooms were outdated, and the decor needed updating. In the late 1990s, the Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn Airport became the Ramada. In 2003, a $5 million renovation began that turned the aging Solar Dome area into Buccaneer Bay, and what was the Red Rock Lounge became Castaway s Bar & Grille, following the new pirate theme of the place. The exterior was updated as well, giving the 44-year-old motel a new lease on life.

Eric Renshaw of Sioux Falls has written the book “Forgotten Sioux Falls” and gives a historical perspective on his website GreetingsFromSiouxFalls.

com.

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