Downtown plaza now known as Ratingen Platz

The new pocket park constructed on the corner of Main and Market streets in downtown Vermillion now has a new name.

Following a ribbon cutting ceremony by city and Chamber of Commerce officials Thursday, Aug. 5, the park, or more specifically, plaza, is now known as Ratingen Platz.

The plaza was christened with the new German name in a continuing effort to recognize the sister city relationship that Vermillion has shared with Ratingen, Germany for several decades.

It also follows a decision made by the city earlier this summer to give back the original name to a street that has been known as Ratingen Strasse since the early 1980s.

"The first USD School of Business Study Group, under the guidance of Professor Benno Wymar, visited Ratigen in the winter of 1970-71 to see what a small German town looked like, with a population less than 100,000, and to visit German businesses. During the following winter, former Dean of USD School of Business Dale Clement accompanied another study group," Mayor Jack Powell said in prepared remarks before the ribbon cutting ceremony. "At that time the Mayor of Ratingen, the late Dr. Ernst Dietrich, approached Dale about establishing a sister city relationship between our two cities."

Powell noted that Vermillion's mayor at the time, Merle Offerdahl and city manager, Jim Antonen, were very receptive to the idea and that is how the sister city relationship began.

"Over the next 30 years there has been many study tours conducted with part of the time spent in Ratingen. Also, there have been many visits to Vermillion by both students and adults, including the mayor of Ratingen and other dignitaries," Powell said. "Last summer at Vermillion's sesquicentennial celebration we were honored to have a wonderful band from Ratingen perform in a concert at the Vermillion Public School Auditorium."

Thursday's ceremony, Powell said, is significant because it recognizes the bond the two cities have maintained over the years.

"It is my hope that this dedication of Ratingen Platz will serve to strengthen and serve as a renewal of our sister city relationship," he said.

Approximately 30 years ago, when the sister-city relationship between Ratingen and Vermillion was fairly new, the city decided to rename the stretch of University Street that serves as a traffic link between Highway 50 and Cherry Street as Ratingen Strasse.

In June, at the request of the University of South Dakota, the city decided to give the street its original way, and at the same time, find some other venue in the city that could boast the Ratingen name.

The new pocket park proves to be a perfect choice.

USD requested the University Street name be returned to the north-south thoroughfare, which runs on on the eastern edge of campus and is proving to become one of the more popular ways for traffic to reach the campus.

"This is about helping out students, in particular prospective students and their parents, find their way to our campus," Rich Van Den Hul, outgoing USD vice president for finance and administration at USD, told members of the city council at its noon meeting June 7. Renaming Ratingen Strasse to University Street, he said, "would get rid of some confusion that students sometime encounter as they make their way to the university."

For years, the street has served as a major route the DakotaDome and the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts on the campus. The street is growing as a vital traffic link for the university as work continues on USD's new wellness center, located right on what has been renamed University Street, and Coyote Village, the university's new student housing unit, which is nearby.

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