Rodeo Grounds re­lo­ca­tion

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - FRONT PAGE -

The city came close to re­lo­cat­ing the Siloam Springs Rodeo Grounds from Cheri Whit­lock Drive to Lin­coln Street in 2017, but when con­struc­tion bids for the new fa­cil­ity came in over bud­get and the sale of the cur­rent land fell through, the project stalled.

De­lays in the city’s ef­fort to re­lo­cate the rodeo grounds have been fes­ter­ing for more than a decade. Dis­cus­sions on the topic be­gan as far back as 2001 and in 2013, the city pur­chased a 20-acre prop­erty lo­cated at 2251 S. Lin­coln St. with in­ten­tions of re­lo­cat­ing the arena and ac­com­pa­ny­ing fa­cil­i­ties there.

Events at the rodeo grounds are mainly fa­cil­i­tated through the Siloam Springs Rid­ing Club, which was founded in 1944. The club held the first rodeo in 1958 and in 1964, the city granted the rid­ing club a 99-year lease for the prop­erty.

When ap­prov­ing the 2017 bud­get in 2016, the city ap­proved $800,000 for re­build­ing the rodeo grounds on the prop­erty on Lin­coln Street. Then in Oc­to­ber 2017, city board mem­bers ap­proved a sale price of $382,695.50 for the 11-acre tract of land on Cheri White­lock Drive and passed a res­o­lu­tion that au­tho­rized the mayor and city clerk to sell the prop­erty to the Siloam Springs School Dis­trict as long as bids for the new rodeo fa­cil­ity came in un­der $1.2 mil­lion.

How­ever, in Jan­uary 2018 bids for the project came in at $1.4 mil­lion and city board mem­bers de­cided to hold off on the project be­cause of bud­get gap.

School board mem­bers ap­proved a coun­terof­fer of $440,800 for the prop­erty in March 2018, but city board mem­bers de­cided the ad­di­tional $60,000 wouldn’t be enough to off­set the bud­get short­fall. In April, the school dis­trict pur­chased an 11-acre tract of pri­vately owned land ad­ja­cent to the rodeo grounds for a to­tal of $440,000. School of­fi­cials said the land could pos­si­bly be used for the devel­op­ment of a new sports com­plex.

Re­quests from city staff to out­side en­ti­ties for grants and ad­di­tional fund­ing — in­clud­ing pri­vate com­pa­nies like Miller Coors, Wran­gler Jeans or Po­laris Sports Out­doors, in ad­di­tion to state agen­cies like the Arkansas State Park and Tourism Board — have been un­suc­cess­ful. The most re­cent dis­cus­sion that has taken place on the is­sue was in Septem­ber dur­ing a city board work­shop, where City Ad­min­is­tra­tor Phillip Pat­ter­son per­haps best summed up the cur­rent cir­cum­stances.

“So here we are in 2018 and we’re still hav­ing a dif­fi­cult time try­ing to ad­dress this,” Pat­ter­son said. “There’s no ques­tion in my mind that re­lo­cat­ing the rodeo grounds is in the best in­ter­est of the city. It’s in the best in­ter­est of the rid­ing club and in the best in­ter­est of the com­mu­nity as a whole, but at this time, I can’t find a clear, fi­nan­cially fea­si­ble path to move for­ward to re­lo­cate the rodeo grounds.”

Gra­ham Thomas/Siloam Sun­day

A grand en­try is fea­tured each night at the an­nual Siloam Springs Rodeo.

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