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