RIDGWAY – It’s out with the old, and in with the new, at the Ouray County Fairgrounds this summer. As the county steamrolls ahead with its new grandstands replacement project, the Ouray County Rodeo Association has just received a $125,000 anonymous donation from an “angel donor” to rebuild the antiquated rodeo arena as well.
The money will be used to purchase a setup from Preifert Manufacturing (a company that makes animal handling equipment, metal panels, headgates, squeeze and roping chutes), for a prefabricated, “snap-together” combination roping and roughstock arena.
“It has all-new bucking chutes, new roping apparatus, pens, everything,” OCRA vice president and treasurer Erin Stadelman said. “It will arrive in three flatbeds, and will fit together, just like a puzzle.”
But first, “We will demolish everything” that comprises the current arena, Stadelman said. “It will all be wiped clean” – from the rusty gates and panels to the rotting fence posts and horse-chewed cross beams – “and then we will be assembling the new arena.”
A portion of the donation will also be set aside to replace the footing in the arena, adding two inches of fresh soil to the base later this summer if all goes according to plan.
OCRA will present the project to the Ouray Board of County Commissioners and the Ridgway Town Council next week. Once these elected officials have given their seal of approval, things should gallup forward at a breakneck pace.
“We are hoping to have the arena delivered the last week in May or first week in June if all our T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted,” Stadelman said. “With guidance from Preifert, we should be able to put it together in three or four days. We should be seeing a brand new arena in June.”
As the present rodeo arena has slowly fallen apart over the years, time’s ravages have also caught up with the grandstands that overlook it. The county has recently embarked on an ambitious effort to raise enough money to tear down the old structure and replace it with a new steel and aluminum, closed-deck, stadium style structure that is ADA compliant, and safe.
Funding for the grandstands replacement project has come primarily from a $350,000 Great Outdoors Colorado grant, but with county efforts focused on the grandstands, OCRA has been on its own to find funding for the arena replacement project.
Stadelman said that the donor the group approached has been “very hesitant about the entire process, but we are very pleased with outcome. We are very eager to get the arena rebuilt, to bring in more interested parties to use it.”
Current users groups that hold regular events at the rodeo grounds include OCRA, the 4-H roping club and gymkhana, and (for the past two years) the new Ouray County Mud Festival.
By upgrading the grounds, many more user groups will be attracted to the facility, Stadelman said – including organizations like the National Little Britches Rodeo Association, the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association and the Colorado Barrel Horse Association, that haven’t come in the past because the grounds are currently so outdated.
While the new prefabricated arena components will certainly be far safer and thus in compliance with requirements for sanctioned events, nobody can deny that the old arena give the rodeo grounds a certain old-timey charm. OCRA members intend to preserve cornerstones of the quaintness from the old arena to put on display in a mini-museum that will eventually be built underneath the new grandstands.
In the meantime, Stadelman said she will need “all hands on deck” for the upcoming work at the rodeo grounds. “We will demolish on one weekend and reassemble the following weekend,” she said. The reassembly should be rather easy, “as long as we have a good crew and everyone shows up,” she said. “It’ll be a good community event.”
To volunteer, call Stadelman at 970/275-6051 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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