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All-purpose arena proposed at J. Neils

| May 26, 2004 12:00 AM

By Roger Morris, Western News Publisher

A $260,000 proposal to build a multi-purpose outdoor events arena at J. Neils Memorial County Park will be presented to the Libby Area Development Company on Wednesday.

The proposal is centered around the existing horse arena and would expand its capabilities for horse shows, Omoksee competitions, bull-riding events, rodeos and more.

Ralph Heinert and Don Bernall began working on a facilities survey after the Libby Area Chamber of Commerce was asked to host a Professional Cowboy¹s Rodeo Association event this summer, July 29-31.

³We started looking at the facility and then the number of different events the community could put on with the right facility,² Heinert said. ³The idea has been germinating for four to five years and then the Chamber was approached by the PRCA and Logger Days was thinking about adding a bull riding event, which rekindled it.²

He said the fencing and gates for rodeo and bull-riding events are costly and come out of the community¹s share when putting on such events. The fixed arena would save the community about $5,000 an event each. Over an eight-year period that would more than pay for the cost of the arena, estimated at $75,000.

³We could have had a bull-riding event for Loggers Days,² with the right facility in place, he said.

The proposal before the LADC will be to construct a sports arena consisting of steel arena fencing, livestock chutes and holding pens for rodeo-type functions and fixed covered grandstand with seating for 1,000 people.

The grandstand would be 150 feet long and be constructed along the north side of the existing arena. It would be 16 rows high and the first row would begin four feet up for visibility. It would be handicapped accessbile. The arena would be 150 feet by 280 feet with the chutes and gates primarily across from the grandstand.

³What we would plan to do is get the arena and fencing installed right away,² Heinert said.

The steel for the grandstand would have to be ordered and installed next spring. Some of the materials and work could be through in-kind donations, he said.

³These are all popular events and they bring business to town,² he said. ³A two-day event could bring in $200,000 plus to the local businesses based on a $100 a day per visitor spending. The payoff to the community is appreciable.²

The proposal includes a stipulation that would have to be accepted by the county, that events using the facility build in a cost into their ticket prices to cover maintenance and upgrade expenses.

³As we looked at this thing, I felt it could be a real attribute to the community,² Heinert said. ³It would be a fixed asset, another thing to make people feel good about Libby.²

And it could help insure the success of the PRCA rodeo and similar future events in Libby, Bernall noted. Presently the community doesn¹t have the facility to host the state Omoksee and many summer events lose spectators because they have to sit on bleachers out in the sun.

The covered grandstand, estimated to cost $170,000 will make it attractive enough for people to want to return.

³Just picture 1,000 people sitting in those grandstands looking out at the Cabinets,² Heinert said.

The rodeo committee is seeking a $260,000 grant. The additional $15,000 is to cover unexpected expenses.