By Jack King
The arena floor is where you put on a rodeo — and if all the parts of the floor are there it doesn’t really matter what kind of building sits on top of it.
That was the response of most of the rodeo promoters polled last week about the design chosen by Curry County commissioners for the county’s new events center.
The commissioners’ choice evoked skepticism from some audience members Tuesday. Instead of the metal frame building common in the West for fairgrounds events centers, it will be a 70-foot-tall dome made of poured concrete, with a covering of insulation and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tile. The floor will even be sunk 24-feet below ground level, for insulation purposes.
But Ronnie Brooks, president of the High Plains Junior Rodeo, which opens this week at the fairgrounds, said the “space age” architecture will prove acceptable, as long as the floor plan works.
“What you put over the top doesn’t really affect the rodeo. As far as the arena floor, if they have a concrete wall around the floor and a dirt floor that’s 150-by-300 feet, with openings on each end large enough to drive a diesel truck through, it should be all right,” he said.
“We need some stalls at the fairgrounds. Between 200 and 400 stalls would sure beat what we have now,” he added.
Kent Sturman, executive director of the National High School Rodeo Association in Colorado Springs, Colo., said he has never heard of a rodeo arena designed like the one proposed for Curry County. But a facility with 160-by-320 square-foot dirt floor, such as the one proposed for the Curry County center, would be adequate for most rodeos, he said.
“Most indoor facilities are also events center facilities,” he added. “The composition of the building really doesn’t matter. The main component is the dirt floor. If you have a concrete floor that is covered with dirt for the rodeo, the dirt can get moved and the horses and other animals can slip,” he said.
Having the arena floor below ground level should not be a problem as long as the building’s entrances and exits are wide enough to get stock in and out, he said.
Duane Castleberry, captain of the Curry County Mounted Patrol, which puts on Clovis’ annual Pioneer Days Rodeo, said he, too, thinks the arena will be big enough for a rodeo.
“I don’t think the shape will hurt anything,” he added. “I think a lot of people thought it was going to look more ‘Western.’ This one will look more futuristic, but I don’t think that will make any difference in the long run.”
Stalls, he said, would be an important addition to the overall plan for the arena.
“Stalls would be (a) good draw and could pay for the maintenance of the building,” he said.
Jesse Harris, a partner in LPDJ Architects of Bountiful, Utah, which proposed the dome to the county commission, said this is the first time the company has designed a building for use as a rodeo arena, but he’s not concerned about its apparent lack of experience.
“What we’re doing is designing a building that can accommodate the activities in it,” he said.
“A concrete thin shell design has many advantages. It allows for long-span construction at a very low price. Its thermal mass stays temperature stable, so it’s considerably less expensive to heat, cool and maintain. What’s of concern to us is that the county get a building that’s within its budget and can do as much as possible within that budget.”