Falls Park Design Competition

Confluence of Sioux Falls has won the Falls Park Design Competition

Falls Park is a large, approximately 120-acre, municipal park located in downtown Sioux Falls, SD. Falls Park is named after the raging waters of the Big Sioux River that tumbles over the exposed quartzite bedrock located within the park. This natural wonder makes the park a destination point for area residents and tourists year-round. Falls Park is currently organized into 4 regions; Falls Proper, Falls East, Falls North, and Falls West (see attachment A).

Prior to 1990, Falls Park and the adjacent downtown areas were largely neglected. This led to an overrun with volunteer vegetation and dilapidated infrastructure throughout the area. In the early 2000s, the City of Sioux Falls began a series of significant investments to revitalize its downtown. This entailed demolition and remediation of unused industrial sites, street and utility projects throughout the central business district, and improvements to the city’s namesake park. Improvements included multiple construction projects within Falls Park, two phases of the City’s downtown river greenway, and multiple streetscape improvements within the City’s downtown core. 

Attendance within Falls Park has increased over 65 percent in the past 15 years. Due to increased usage, many of the existing facilities within the park are nearing the end of their useful or programmable life. In 2019, the City completed a $4 million construction project in Falls Park West. The project was completed as part of a public/private partnership with the National Levitt Foundation and the local nonprofit Friends of Levitt Shell Sioux Falls. The project transformed the open space of Falls Park West into a state of the art outdoor performance venue and festival grounds. Falls Park West is now home to 50 free professional concerts every year.

Private properties within Sioux Falls’ downtown have also continued to redevelop over the past few decades. Many past industrial sites have been repurposed into mixed used developments, offering business space, entertainment, and housing in the areas around Falls Park.

It is within this context that the City of Sioux Falls conducted the Falls Park Master Plan Design Competition.


The overarching goal of the design competition was to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the entire Falls Park area. A successful design will address, at a minimum, the following programmatic considerations, and create an inclusive framework to:

  • Generate big ideas to meet the growing needs of the community, and respond to the natural environment and built history of the site. 
  • Consider multiple scales, from broad systems to local sites.
  • Think about long-term development and flexible solutions that change/mature over time.
  • Investigate landscapes that are accessible year round and respond to the changing seasons with a focus on more year round activities.
  • Explore new and compelling experiences to support a wide range of social activities.
  • Build upon the existing features and spaces of the park.
  • Utilize new and innovative park designs.
  • Capitalize on the existing assets through place-based solutions that consider the geography, history, culture, ecology, and economic conditions of the City of Sioux Falls. 
  • Accommodate individual land uses, landscapes, and places that perform more than one function.
  • Investigate new opportunities for connectivity, sustainability, infrastructure, art, public space, public/private partnerships, and the Big Sioux River including the transportation network.  
  • Examine multiple types of movement to safely navigate to and through the park.
  • Consider connections to all places within of the park, the Big Sioux River, and the surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Connect the diverse recreational, ecological, and historic opportunities located within the park to the surrounding downtown urban environment. 

Designs were scored on the following criteria: 

Evaluation Criteria

Does the design create a comprehensive vision for the entirety of the planning area?

  • Is the vision a framework for redevelopment of the park that will respond to the needs of the community?
  • Does the vision explore multiple scales?
  • Does the vision capitalize on the unique and distinguishing features of Falls Park and Sioux Falls?
  • Will the design be a catalyst for continuous growth, improvement, and development of downtown Sioux Falls?
  • Will the vision inspire the community?
Innovation & Creativity

Does the design generate original ideas that can improve and transform the area?

  • Does the design capture your imagination and advance your thinking about the future?
  • Does the design stand out?

Does the design provide new opportunities and improve existing experiences?

Feasibility & Practicality

Are the ideas in the design achievable?

  • Can the design realistically be accomplished?
  • Does the design adequately explore opportunities and address issues?
  • Does the design take into account the climate conditions associated with year round activity in a cold weather community?
  • Can the design realistically be completed in phases?
  • Does the design capitalize on existing assets and generate place based solutions?
Activation & Recreation

Will the design draw people to the park?

  • Does the design create spaces for interaction and engagement?
  • Does the design create opportunities for varied types of recreation on a year round basis?

Does the design explore and address all possible connections to support the new vision for Falls Park?

  • Does the design examine all types of physical movement?
  • Does the design foster safe movement to and through the park?
  • Does the design connect the diverse features and opportunities located within the park and surrounding context?