City Council cautious of cage fighting detriments, costs

Meghann Rise

Meghann Rise

The Brookings City Council will hear public testimony March 10 regarding a current cage fighting proposal.

On Feb. 10, the Brookings City Council overturned the proposal to ban cage fighting from public facilities in Brookings, including the Swiftel Center.

City council member Tom Bezdichek proposed taking the same course of action as Sioux Falls by banning cage fighting from all public facilities in Brookings.

Instead, the council members agreed to place safety regulations on the fights, such as requiring insurance coverage, having medical personnel on hand during events and regulating certain activities during a fight.

Most council members agreed that banning cage fighting would be detrimental to businesses in Brookings, especially the Swiftel Center. There have been six events so far, with 3,500 people in attendance. From the six events, the community gained $345,000.

One of City Manager Jeff Weldon’s responsibilities is seeing to the success of the Swiftel Center.

“While I don’t like that kind of event, I think that is something that we can’t ignore in terms of what it’s doing for the facility,” Weldon said in a video broadcast of the meeting. “If we erode at the base and start limiting the types of events we want to have, I’m afraid we are strangling the ability for the Swiftel Center to be successful.”

City Attorney Steve Britzman, is in favor of setting regulations for the events. After researching various communities’ regulations, he suggested a permit be required to trigger the notice of the city council, at which point, a certain list of requirements would have to be met.

Britzman feels the council does need to step in and regulate. However, with any ordinance, they would have to look at state statutes and make sure they have the authority to enforce any regulations.

Executive director of the Swiftel Center Tom Richter reported that there have been no reported injuries to either patrons or fighters during the six events that have been held thus far. He also supports the idea of bringing diverse forms of entertainment to the community of Brookings.

“As the manager of the Swiftel Center, there are several events I do not agree with or have any interest in. We strive to bring a diversity of events to our community and try to have things that people from several different walks of life enjoy, and this is just one of those types of events,” Richter said.

Council member Ryan Brunner was present at the council meeting and supports regulations for cage fighting events.

“It is important we have rules and regulations in place to make sure that the city is protected should a severe injury occur in a publicly owned facility. The regulations are designed to make sure cage fighting is allowed while ensuring it is done in a proper environment,” Brunner said in an interview.

Meghan Larson, a senior global studies major, rarely attends cage fights but said the regulations would have little bearing over her decision to attend.

“Since I don’t go to cage fights often, safety regulations probably wouldn’t hinder my decision to go,” Larson said.

SDSU graduate Joseph Buren said safety regulations may affect his decision to go to cage fights.

“Depending on how stringent the new regulations are, I might not go,” Buren said. “The rawness of the sport is half the draw.”