County Commissioners support indoor events arena in Monticello

San Juan County Commissioners have approved a letter of support to build an indoor rodeo and events arena in Monticello. They discussed the project at their September 21 meeting.

Commissioners Bruce Adams and Commissioner Willie Grayeyes voted 2-0 to approve the letter of support. Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy was excused from the meeting to attend to family matters.

Elaine Gizler, the new Economic Development Director for San Juan County, asked the commission for a letter of support as she pursues grant funding for a proposed indoor event center at the county fairgrounds.

Gizler explained that the US Economic Development Administration (EDA) has received $750 million of American Rescue Plans funds. 

The EDA is distributing those funds through grants in their Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation program to accelerate the recovery of communities that rely on the travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation sectors.

While $510 million has been set aside for state tourism grants, the remaining $240 million is available for communities to invest in infrastructure, workforce, or other projects to support the recovery of the industry and economic resilience of those communities in the future.

Gizler views the proposed arena as an opportunity for economic growth in the county.

“What I would love to see is an indoor multi-purpose arena and event center and then an outside arena where we could host events that would happen all year long,” said Gizler. “We would be able to generate revenue, and that would mean TRT tax revenue and sales tax revenue all year long.”

In addition to the most obvious use for rodeo events, Gizler said the event center could be used for Native American events, mud bogs, high school events, and RV trade shows. 

Commissioner Grayeyes pointed out the event center could also possibly be used by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe for their annual Bear Dance. 

Commissioner Bruce Adams also proposed an event to highlight a rodeo star in San Juan County.

“One event that you ought to consider moving down the road if we get the event center, is we ought to have the annual Keyshawn Whitehorse bull riding event there in the center there,” said Adams.

Whitehorse is from McCracken Mesa in San Juan County and rides in the Professional Bull Riders circuit. He finished second at the national finals in 2020 and is currently ranked in the top ten in the world.

Gizler, who recently became the county economic director after moving from the same role in Grand County, said while researching the creation of an indoor arena, she discovered the county had commissioned a study in 2009.

The 2009 study is not necessarily what the proposed arena would be, but it does give a general picture of what the facility could look like and its potential impacts on the county. Gizler says although the study is dated, it does hold a lot of value for the county.

The facility recommendations in the 2009 study included a 120 feet by 200 feet indoor dirt floor arena, with fixed seating for a little more than 1,000 people. 

Other facility recommendations include a 10,000 square foot exhibit hall, concession area, portable stalls for 40 to 50 horses, and an area for 40 to 60 RVs. 

Although the 2009 study showed a potential negative annual cash flow averaged at about $70,000 for the county, estimated impacts from the arena would far exceed that.

The study estimated anywhere from $600,000 to $1 million in expenditure impacts, meaning dollars spent in San Juan County by out-of-county visitors on items such as lodging, food, tours, retail, and gas.

The study also estimated an annual earning impact of $180,000 to $305,000 for workers in the county and an estimated job creation of nine to 17 jobs.

While a 20 percent match is needed to receive the grant funds from the EDA, Gizler says they may be able to get to that amount without having to spend cash.

She notes the assessed value of the property that would hold the arena is $800,000 and is already owned by the county. 

Bruce Adams recalled that earlier in his role as county commissioner, the commission had purchased the property at what he recalled was around $250,000. 

“I’m glad to see the property has appreciated to $800,000 already,” said Adams. “And I support what you’re doing 800,000 percent.”

The commission letter is joined by support from the manager of the City of Cortez and the county tourism tax advisory board. Gizler said they have also received support from Blanding City Manager David Johnson. 

Gizler is working to obtain other letters of support from local towns, tribal nations, entities, and chapter houses as they pull together an application to the EDA.

San Juan Record

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