By RUSSELL HUFFMAN
Stephenville City Council’s consideration to purchase property and build a multipurpose center is a hot topic.
Hot enough for the council to cancel its executive session and receive a briefing on the property from Director of Community Services Jeremy Allen in open session Tuesday evening.
Rocky Point Baptist Church owns property at 1217 US Highway 67, and sent a letter to the city inquiring if there was interest in the land which is located adjacent to the runway at the Stephenville Municipal Airport and other city facilities. Stephenville does have interest, but not until a feasibility study can be conducted to determine if the property can meet the city’s needs now and into the foreseeable future.
Mayor Kenny Weldon spent nearly ten minutes explaining the purpose of the meeting was simply to see where the process was in regard to the study and to learn what Allen had found out so far. Allen has practiced his due diligence in looking at the property and seeing if it would be suitable for the city’s needs; however, he pointed out he can’t “predict the future” in regard to such a facility paying for itself.
Allen noted most multipurpose facilities don’t turn a profit and the recovery rate of funds may only be 50-60 percent, but the idea of “convention” type facilities are geared toward bringing people into town, with the concept being people will come to use the facility and then spend money for gas, food, lodging and more.
“Most conference centers are to bring people to town and to stimulate the economy, but they generally are not a profit maker,” Allen said. He added that looking into private developers or renting out space to businesses or community services can also boost the recovery rate.
The council had plenty of questions, but Allen deferred to the need for a professional study of the property, because while he does have experience in the operation of such a facility, he does not feel he has the experience to predict if such a property and facility would work.
Councilman Alan Nix questioned whether the study would also cover the costs of paving, inspecting and bringing the existing structures up to city code. The $15,500 study being conducted by Burditt Consulting is more geared toward comparisons to other towns like Glen Rose and Granbury and the property’s location, size, parking ability and ease of access.
Councilman Rhett Harrison added that a poll he saw showed opposition to such a purchase running as high as 70 percent and he would like to see such a purchase put before the voters as a potential bond issue.
Weldon quickly interceded and explained this was not a topic he wanted to see in a bond election and instead he wants to see innovative financing fund the project. Weldon added he sees a bond as a “tax” on the voters and that’s not what he wants.
There are plenty of wants.
Allen sees some possibilities for use by senior citizens and other city services.
The Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo Committee, headed by Chad Decker, sees the project as an opportunity to “build their own house” with an outdoor arena including a covered grandstand. He says the committee even has connections to have many of the necessary materials donated.
Lone Star Arena manager Tommy Graham clearly wants the Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo to remain in its current home and is concerned about competition with the city.
After more than 90 minutes of citizen input, it was clear the local rodeo committee and rodeo athletes have a healthy respect for what Lone Star Arena brings to the local community, as speaker after speaker discussed their associations with the facility. But at the same time, over the last three years the Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo has worked its way into becoming one of the more prestigious rodeos in North America with a payout of more than $132,000 this year.
In addition to Decker, the council also heard from eight time NFR qualifier Charly Crawford, who stressed his love for Stephenville, after moving here from Oregon, and how he was amazed at how the local community treated its rodeo heroes. Crawford’s wife, Jackie, a 14-time Women’s Professional Rodeo Association world champion, and local businessman Cody Johnson also spoke in favor of the city continuing to explore the idea.
The main focus for Decker, he said, is to see the Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo continue to prosper and grow, and with that growth he wants the ability to accommodate a crowd that Lone Star Arena may not be able to handle.
In the end, the council voted to have City Administrator Pat Bridges write a letter telling Rocky Point Baptist Church the city does have an interest in the property, but will first need to see the results of the feasibility study.
As for Lone Star Arena and the rodeo comittee, Decker and Graham spent about 10 minutes discussing ways to potentially come together and work out future plans. Both agreed to make plans to meet in the near future to discuss possible shortcomings and ways to resolve them.