Not only does the new Vermillion exit rest area provide a place to stop on I-29, it’s also now an important tourist center, welcoming travelers to South Dakota and setting the tone for an awesome visit to the state.
At least, that’s the aim of officials with the South Dakota Departments of Tourism and Transportation, which recently completed reconstruction of the Vermillion (Homestead) Rest and Welcome Center. The new center, along with another reconstructed welcome center near Wilmot, opened to the public last week after months of closure.
“The new Homestead and Wilmot welcome centers have been expanded from their original footprint in order to provide travelers with a chance to learn more about what South Dakota has to offer,” said Jim Hagen, secretary of the Department of Tourism. “The welcome centers’ new exhibits allow us an opportunity to tell a part of South Dakota’s story, educate visitors about our travel and tourism offerings, and engage them long enough to pique their interest, all with a goal of enticing them to spend more time in our state.”
The reconstructed Vermillion center includes expanded tourism facilities and information, upgraded restrooms, more truck parking, and a fresh look. The center, which hadn’t had much of an upgrade since its construction in the 1970s, offered only “basic” services before. Now, the center is more spacious and welcoming, said DOT official Mark King.
“We are excited to have the renovated facility open again,” he said. “We were originally scheduled to re-open in time for Memorial Day, but this year’s wet spring caused delays.
“After reconstruction, the ground around the rest area was really wet,” King said. “We had to wait until we could get it dried out, cleaned up, and get some grass down. … We are happy we were able to get it open before the Fourth of July.”
The Homestead Rest area is one of the most used in South Dakota, according to statistics provided by the SD DOT. On average, the rest stop sees 175 vehicles per day. In 2015, some 96,600 visitors were recorded coming into the facility. In fact, of the 21 rest areas along Interstates 29 and 90 in South Dakota studied in 2015, the Homestead Rest Area was second in use only to Chamberlain, which recorded 121,500 visitors that year.
Atlanta-based Building Four Fabrication designed and built the new exhibit space in the revitalized welcome center. Creating such a space in the renovated rest area was an important part of the tourism mission for the facility.
“With the reconstruction of these two rest areas, the long-term vision of the revitalization plan is coming to fruition and will serve the citizens and travelers, to and through South Dakota, well for many years to come,” said Darin Bergquist, secretary of the Department of Transportation. “South Dakota’s interstate rest areas and welcome centers provide a safe, clean, accessible, and functional place for travelers to rest and rejuvenate. They present a positive impression that is welcoming and deliver educational value for visitors which enhances and extends their stay in South Dakota. The facilities are modern and aesthetically pleasing, while being cost-effective.”
JLG Architects and Beckenhauer Construction designed and constructed the Homestead rest area working with the State Engineer’s office. The improvements to these rest areas were an element of the Interstate Rest Area Revitalization Plan. Full details of the plan can be found at www.sddot.com/resources/reports/InterstateRestAreaFinalReport.pdf.