Center construction still pending

By Jack King

County commissioners said this week it will be at least early August before they consider an architect’s contract or a builder’s contract for the proposed special events center at the Curry County Fairgrounds.
County commissioners approved a design for the events center at their July 2 meeting, but held off discussing a contract for the architect proposing the winning idea — LPDJ Architects of Bountiful, Utah — because County Attorney Steven Doerr wasn’t at the meeting to answer questions about legal issues.
LPDJ are the only architects that responded to the county’s request for proposals for a concrete, thin shell building, County Manager Geneva Cooper said.
Now, the commissioners said, they must hold off awarding an architect’s contract until the county can get out of a current contract with Bullock Smith and Partners of Knoxville, Tenn. That contract is scheduled to end on July 31, said Commission Chairman Tim Ashley said Thursday.
The commission hired Bullock Smith and Partners, a nationally known designer of events centers and rodeo arenas, in 1998 to develop improvement plans for the Curry County Fairgrounds.
The firm suggested a number of improvements for the fairgrounds — including an 80,000 square-foot multipurpose arena, 100 horse stalls, a warm-up riding ring, 10 RV hook-ups, a swine arena, a paved parking lot and landscaping. But the total improvements would have cost $6.38 million and the county could never come up with the money for the package.
In 2002 Ashley made a presentation to the commission about concrete monolithic domes, after his church began plans to construct its new facility as a dome.
At the July 2 meeting architect Leland Gray of LPDJ told the commissioners his firm could design a dome that for $3.6 million would have a 160-by-320-square-foot arena floor and 4,000 chairback-type seats, plus be easier to heat cool and maintain.
Commissioners said Thursday they want to get construction started on the center as soon as possible.
“I think we’ll act on it within the next two meetings,” said Commissioner Pete Hulder. “I would hope within three to four months we’ll be breaking ground.”
Ashley said there is another issue the commissioners must consider in connection with the building — hiring an events center director.
“I think there are options. We can hire an individual as manager, who would be a county employee, or we can privatize the events center and hire a company to manage and market it,” he said.
Hulder said he is skeptical of the idea of privatizing the arena.
“That would be an option we could certainly discuss, but if you bring in another entity they would have to make a profit. The county can manage the center and not have to make a profit,” he said.
But all four commissioner reached last week — Ashley, Hulder, Ed Perales and Kathrynn Tate — agreed on the need to hire a manager almost as soon as the building contract is settled.
“I think we need to get one pretty soon. It takes a lot of time to line up attractions,” Tate said.