August 27, 2020
Written By: Shiloh Francis
Working nights and weekends as a Blackjack dealer in Deadwood, Domico Rodriguez would watch people place bets night after night. He had taken a chance, moving away from his family in Denver to join the football and track teams at Black Hills State University. He didn’t know what his future would hold, but he wanted to pave his own way.
After graduation he found himself working three jobs in downtown Rapid City, hoping to save enough money to move to Las Vegas. One night, on a break from driving the shuttle for the Holiday Inn Rushmore Plaza, he was asked a question that would change everything: “Why would you go be a small fish in a big pond in Vegas, when you could stay and have a real impact here in Rapid City?”
The answer to that question changed everything for Rodriguez. It was time he bet on himself.
Going all in on Rapid City
Once he’s committed to something, Domico is all in. If he had to choose three things that best describe him, they would be: integrity, hard work, and real. Those three qualities have led to his bet paying off, and making a difference for Rapid City.
He first realized how truly unique and special Rapid City was when he traded three jobs for one: the Sports & Events Manager for the Rapid City Convention & Visitors Bureau (now Visit Rapid City). “People had no idea where Rapid City was,” he recalled. “I always had to lead with: Have you heard of Mt. Rushmore?” But every time he would get a win and bring a group or tournament here, his passion for the area would reignite. “I would hear all the time from visitors how great Rapid City was. And I realized just how much I would take it for granted as a local.”
At the same time Rodriguez was transforming his career, downtown Rapid City was entering its transformation. Discussions had begun around creating a central gathering place for families and the community; an outdoor space for events, art, and music surrounded by shopping and dining. Domico found himself knocking on doors and meeting with the community to help promote what is now known as Main Street Square.
Finding Downtown Again
Ten years later, Rodriguez is doubling down on his bet – that he could make a difference in Rapid City. Looking back on his career, Downtown Rapid City has always been at the center. From the Holiday Inn and Sanford to the CVB and later the Hotel Alex Johnson. He has gotten to know business owners and welcome visitors.
His passion, integrity, and desire to make an impact have led him to the very heart of Rapid City as he steps into the role of Executive Director for Main Street Square. “It’s crazy,” Rodriguez reflects as he looks out at the crew setting up for a concert. “Ten years ago, I was knocking on doors, just trying to get people to buy into the idea of Main Street Square. I never dreamed I would be here.”
Elevate President and CEO Tom Johnson describes the downtown area as the heart and soul of Rapid City. "The heartbeat keeps you alive, pumping the blood with commerce," Johnson said. "Soul is about culture and the arts and why you really want to live in a place.” And now, as Domico says, it’s time to give downtown a jolt.
One of his biggest goals in his role as Executive Director is to help people “find downtown again.” Main Street Square was built for locals. To be a family-centric gathering space for events, festivals, music and more. But over the years work has been done to tell visitors how great Rapid City is, while perhaps missing the mark on reminding locals what there is to offer.
“We’re starting to see a resurgence of downtown,” said Domico. New breweries like Pour 54 have opened. The Black Hills Barbershop has added a fresh new service to accompany anchor businesses like Michael’s Menswear, the Firehouse, Prairie Edge, and the Hotel Alex Johnson.
Combine the businesses with the new arena at the Civic Center, Ascent Innovation and South Dakota Mines, there’s a lot of growth happening in the downtown corridor. And at the center of it all? Main Street Square.
“I think it’s most important to create a sense of unity,” says Domico. People often say they have to leave town for things like shopping and events. But in order to bring those businesses to Rapid City and keep the ones that are already here, it’s important for locals to show up and support the businesses and events. “From the School of Mines to West Boulevard, there is something here for everyone.” A person could grab dinner and drinks downtown before walking to the arena for a show and then spending the night in the hotel. There’s something here for everyone.
Main Street Square was an investment first and foremost for the people who call Rapid City home. And Domico Rodriguez is going all in to make sure it continues to thrive.