Celebrating 20 Years


It's a celebration – June 1, 2019 commemorated a 20-year milestone for the Washington Pavilion. The Washington Pavilion, formerly Washington High School, began operations on June 1, 1999, after a multi-year transformation and renovation project. 

To celebrate its proud history, thank the community for its ongoing support and build excitement for a bright future, we held a month-long lineup of activities and events to celebrate this 20-year milestone. 

Past Celebrating 20 Years Events:

  • 20th Anniversary Celebration on June 1, 2019
  • Free First Friday on June 7, 2019
  • Steve Martin and Martin Short on June 8, 2019
  • LES MISÉRABLES with seven performances June 12-16, 2019
  • Retro Day on June 22, 2019

Washington Pavilion 1999-2019

The journey began with the Washington High School closing in 1992. It was one of the largest public school buildings in the nation and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Sioux Falls City Commission appointed the Washington Pavilion Advisory Board who recommended turning the school into the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science.

On October 19, 1993, voters in Sioux Falls approved issuing sales tax revenue bonds of up to $33 million for a convention center and the Washington Pavilion to be financed by an entertainment tax. The vote passed 51% versus 49%. Dan Kirby, a founding Washington Pavilion Board of Trustees member and champion for the project, on that day in October 1993, said: “The future called tonight and Sioux Falls answered.” 

Over the next six years, numerous individuals and organizations worked tirelessly to revamp the former high school into the multi-faceted arts, science and cultural institution it is today. 

The building, operated by Washington Pavilion Management, Inc, opened to the public on June 1, 1999 comprised of the Kirby Science Discovery Center, Visual Arts Center – previously the Civic Fine Arts Center, the Wells Fargo CineDome and the Husby Performing Arts Center. In its first year, the Washington Pavilion welcomed over 350,000 visitors from around the region and beyond. 

The Washington Pavilion continues to be the region’s home for the arts, entertainment and science. Located in a beautifully renovated historic building in downtown Sioux Falls, it is one of only a few facilities in the world to bring together under one roof the performing arts, visual arts and interactive science. 

Mission: To inspire, educate, entertain and enrich our region by creating opportunities for all to explore and experience the arts and science. 

Vision: To be the region’s premier arts and science destination, inspiring lifelong discovery and inclusive experiences.

In 2018, the Washington Pavilion welcomed over 400,000 patrons through its doors with more than 90,000 visiting the Kirby Science Discovery Center. Over 34,000 served through the organization’s educational programs. The Visual Arts Center’s permanent collection is comprised of more than 1,600 pieces of artwork. 

Through the 20 years of operation, the non-profit has received almost $26 million in contributions. From 1999-2018, the organization has an economic development impact of over $275 million. In this same time frame, more than 2.9 million people have seen a show, attended a conference or other event at the Washington Pavilion. 

Articles and News

A gallon of gas was $1.22 and an average movie ticket was less than $5. The nearly forgotten website, MySpace, introduced us to social media online. And in the month of June, the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science was eager to open their doors. Read below to take a look back 20 years ago. 

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When the doors to the Washington Pavilion opened in 1999, the staff and board members made it their goal to bring high-quality, diverse and one-of-a-kind entertainment right here to Sioux Falls. Looking back on twenty years, it is plain to see that this mission was met and continues to be with each passing season. The Mary W. Sommervold Hall was known as the Great Hall back then. Read below for a look back at the first ten years of performance series shows and the entertainment that travelled to our beautiful hall.

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Read below for a look back on the first 20 years of the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science and the small handful of individuals who have been here since the beginning.

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October 19, 2018 | SiouxFalls.Business

On Oct. 19, 1993, 743 voters allowed Sioux Falls to move ahead with building a new convention center and renovating the former Washington High School into the Washington Pavilion.

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Read below for a look back at the last ten years of performance series shows and the entertainment that travelled to our beautiful hall.

Read More (PDF)

April 17, 2019 | Argus Leader

Fuel was 99 cents a gallon, Ricky Martin's Livin' La Vida Loca was at the top of Billboard charts, and Sioux Falls was home to just 116,000 people. It was 1999 and the Washington Pavilion opened its doors for the first time.

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April 17, 2019 | Keloland

2019 marks a big milestone for the Washington Pavilion in downtown Sioux Falls. It's celebrating its 20th anniversary.

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April 17, 2019 | KELO

From one of the nation's biggest public high schools to a center of art, culture, and science, the Washington Pavilion celebrates 20 years this summer.

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April 17, 2019 | KDLT

The Washington Pavilion is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year – and they want to bring you in on the fun.

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May 27, 2019 | Keloland

The Washington Pavilion is celebrating a milestone anniversary. The facility in downtown Sioux Falls has been educating, inspiring and entertaining families for 20 years now. The Washington Pavilion is celebrating two decades with a party on June 1 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. 


The Washington Pavilion segment of Inside KELOLAND feature starts at 13:13 in the video. 

May 30, 2019 | Sioux Falls.Business

As the Pavilion marks its 20th anniversary Saturday, it’s an organization that seems to have found its stride. Visitor numbers are up, corporate sponsorship is robust, and there are plans to grow the organization’s management services beyond the historic former high school.

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Today, May 30, Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken has proclaimed June 1, 2019 as Washington Pavilion Day. 

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May 30, 2019 | KELOLAND Living

Washington Pavilion President and CEO Darrin Smith and Founding Washington Pavilion Board of Trustees Member Dan Kirby visited with KELOLAND Living looking back on 20 years of the Washington Pavilion.

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May 30, 2019 | Argus Leader

The Washington Pavilion celebrates its 20-year anniversary this weekend after opening its doors for the first time on June 1, 1999. Celebrations including a free concert lineup Saturday and family entertainment all month long will help the Pavilion ring in its next 20 years as a lynch pin of downtown entertainment.

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May 30, 2019 | Argus Leader

Walk down memory lane with these archive photos of Washington Pavilion.

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May 31, 2019 | KSFY

Mayor Paul TenHaken has proclaimed June 1, 2019, as Washington Pavilion Day as Sioux Falls' home for arts, entertainment, and science celebrates 20 years in the community.

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May 31, 2019 | Keloland

Saturday marks a big milestone for a downtown Sioux Falls landmark.   That's when the Washington Pavilion turns 20-years old.  A day long festival will kick-off a month of celebrating.

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June 1, 2019 | KSFY

Washington Pavilion staff celebrated the 20th year of the institution's inception on a warm afternoon in Downtown Sioux Falls. 

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