Events center plan up for vote

By Marlena Hartz

An impassioned two-page letter arrived in the hands of the Curry County Commissioner Kathryn Tate in March 2004.

The letter, written by director for Miss Rodeo New Mexico Wilma Fulgham, outlined concerns over the construction of the Curry County Fairground Special Events Center.

Issues presented in the letter are likely to resurface yet again at today’s Curry County Commission meeting, when a final design for the long-awaited center is slated for approval.

But Fulgham, along with a pocket of other Clovis residents, is deeply unsatisfied with its design. Schlegal Lewis Architects have already submitted its final report on conceptual design to the commission, with costs for the center totaling $4.25 million.

Under the plan, the new arena building will be situated just east of the existing outdoor facility at the fairgrounds.

The center was originally slated for construction on the west side of existing facilities. That decision was reached through public consent, as a majority of the funding for the project, about $2.25 million, was gleaned through a county bond issue — taxpayer money. The new plan, according to County Manager Dick Smith, is a direct result of limited funding.

Smith said today’s proposal, if passed, would loosely seal plans for the attachment of the center, with a total seating capacity of 3,700, to the current Mounted Patrol Area.

“We barely have enough money to do it as it is,” Smith said of what he described as a rectangular, fairly conventional building.

Smith also said construction, tentatively scheduled to begin next spring, may still be moved west, as originally planned, if more funding for the project is received. Funneled from previous funding was $500,000 for the operation of the Adult Detention Center.

Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis, is optimistic more funding can be gathered.

“It makes sense to build the new event center on the west side of the fairgrounds. As a representative,” Harden said, “I am willing to work tirelessly with my colleagues to arrange for dollars needed to make it (a west-side facility) a reality. The longer we wait, the more it will cost.”

Harden, Fulgham and others, believe the center on the east side will cause major overcrowding problems.

“I can see the (monetary) advantages to placing the center on the east side,” said Fulgham who has been involved with activities at the fairground for more than five decades, “but I think there will be too much congestion there. The commission has turned a deaf ear to the public. I don’t feel like the commission is listening to the rodeo people and we are the center’s biggest users.”

County Commission Chairperson Ed Perales said there has been numerous opportunities for the public to offer input regarding the special events center. He also encouraged anyone interested to come today’s meeting.
“I hope we have plenty of input tomorrow. And a decision,” Perales said, “will not be made until the last vote is cast.”