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Council OKs arena funding

| June 25, 2004 12:00 AM

By Brent Shrum, Western News Reporter

The Libby City Council voted 4-1 on Monday to approve a $245,000 grant from the city¹s economic development fund to build an outdoor event arena at J. Neils Memorial County Park.

The arena proposal had been presented to the Libby Area Development Co. by Ralph Heinert and Don Bernall. The grant will fund the construction of a 150-by-280-foot fenced arena this summer and a 1,000-seat roofed grandstand next spring. The facility is being designed with professional rodeos in mind but will also accommodate a variety of other events.

The park will host a rodeo by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association on July 30-31, and organizers hope the event will become an annual affair. The rodeo is the fourth in a series of six regional events sponsored by the PRCA and Coeur d¹Alene Casino. The other rodeos in the series will be held in Brewster, Tekoa and Grandview, Wash., and in St. Maries and Coeur d¹Alene, Idaho.

Councilwoman Charlene Leckrone, who voted against the grant, expressed concerns that there are no guarantees the rodeo will become an annual event and that the park is not visible to people passing through Libby.

³That was one of the reasons they said Logger Days didn¹t really make it,² she said.

Council members Lee Bothman, Stu Crismore, Gary Huntsberger and Doug Roll voted in favor of the grant. Councilman Walt McElmurry was not present at Monday¹s meeting.

While LADC members had suggested the project¹s developers work with the county parks department and other park users to develop guidelines to allow a portion of event fees collected at the arena to be used to reimburse the city¹s fund, the council rejected the idea.

³Hopefully they¹ll just put that money into it and make it better,² Crismore said.

³That¹s what they were going to do,² Huntsberger said.

Attorney Scott Spencer also expressed concerns about the legality of requiring the county, which owns the park, to collect fees for the city.

³You can¹t tell the county how to run the park,² Spencer said.

In other business, the council formally received a proposal for a $1.5 million loan to fund the expansion of the golf course at Cabinet View Country Club, which like the arena proposal was approved by the LADC earlier this month.

The country club is looking to expand the golf course from nine holes to 18 and begin the development of 100 new home sites. Payback of the loan would be tied to the sale of the lots.

At the country club¹s request, the city has developed plans to extend sewer service to the area and is seeking funding for the project. A survey conducted by project supporters indicated that area residents would approve annexation into the city limits, which is required for the extension of sewer service.

The council did not vote on the country club proposal but will consider the issue at its next regular meeting on Monday, July 12.