Deadwood is known for its shootouts, parties, and gambling, but its newest addition, Outlaw Square, hopes to give visitors and locals a different experience.
Located on the corner of Deadwood Street and Main Street, sitting on the site of the former Deadwood City Hall, Outlaw Square is an outdoor gathering space featuring year-round events.
The inspiration for the attraction came almost 15 years ago after the community recognized the need for a central gathering place to host events like concerts, parades, festivals, and historical reenactments.
Bobby Rock, the director of Outlaw Square, says he was excited to be involved in the building, fundraising, and planning process. Rock has lived in the Black Hills since 1998 and grew close to the Deadwood community when he began volunteering to emcee town events.
“I had left and moved back from Wyoming in 2018 and had heard about the concept,” said Rock. “I put my hat in the ring, and out of all the applicants they chose me. This gave me the honor of trying to bring everyone’s dream to fruition.”
The square is built entirely from sponsorships. Rock says there’s no citizen taxpayer money involved. The square was built with the help
of the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission and through a partnership with the state of South Dakota.
The hope, Rock says, is that Outlaw Square will become a space for friends and family to come together.
“One thing we noticed about Deadwood is we don’t really have any family activities,” said Rock. “Deadwood is known for rough-and-tumble parties and gambling, and there’s really no place for Mom and Dad and the kids to go and enjoy.”
With more than 200 programs scheduled at the attraction, there’s something for everyone, even in the winter. Outlaw Square also features a Glice rink—a synthetic ice rink made from plastic that can be skated on year-round and primarily runs in the colder seasons.
“4.8 million dollars later and this is what we’re left with, and it’s outstanding.”
“Since it’s a synthetic product, we’re able to skate on it in 90 degree weather if we decide to put it up,” said Rock.
The square opened in December, but the ice rink was closed early in March, due to the impact of COVID-19.
Deadwood reopened to the public on May 14, but Rock says they’re still taking precautions and creating spaces that allow for social distancing. This included moving its Deadwood Alive program from Main Street to the Outlaw Square stage.
Deadwood Alive is a performance group that provides entertainment to tourists and locals by recreating historical shootouts and the Trial of Jack McCall, perform musical numbers, and offer guests stagecoach rides.
“We wanted to give people a chance to spread out and get people used to giving their neighbors that extra six feet of space,” said Rock.
The Deadwood Alive reenactments took place at the square until June 20, when they returned to their original location.
Outlaw Square | Summer Program Schedule
Monday | Family Movie Night
Tuesday | Farmers’ Market
Wednesday | Summer Concert Series
Thursday | Deadwood History Family Fun Night
“We’re beginning to roll things out slowly, and we’ve seen steady growth. We wanted to slowly open things up as people get more comfortable,” said Rock.
The Summer Concert Series started June 24. July acts include The Young Dubliners (July 8), Boogie Machine with Zoe Keehn (July 15), and Dakota Country with Lacy Nelson (July 22).
Outlaw Square is expected to bring visitors to the area, but more than that, organizers hope it becomes a place where locals can enjoy family friendly activities while still being in the heart of downtown.
“Everyone says that it was built for the tourists, but it’s not. It’s built for the locals,” said Rock.
He continued, “Here we have provided a place in central Deadwood for families to come down and enjoy. Come down with the kids or friends and grab a piece of lawn.”