Flash Staff Report
STEPHENVILLE (November 1, 2016) – After several weeks of discussions, Cody Johnson is hanging up his hat. The Erath County businessman who aimed to take over Lone Star Arena and turn the faltering business into a profitable rodeo and events center issued a statement Tuesday, saying he was respectfully stepping away from the idea.
Here is the complete statement:
For the last few months we have been involved in plans and discussions to secure the purchase of Lone Star Arena. For our due diligence we prepared a feasibility study to discover the condition of the property and the full scope of renovations necessary to revive it.
From the results of this study it became clear the renovations necessary would be significantly more than expected. All avenues of additional financial support from area economic entities were explored and none were found to be viable.
At this time we feel it is not a sound business decision to go forward with the purchase.
As lifelong residents of the Stephenville area we are extremely disappointed for the loss of this venue to the area. The financial impact of this loss will be felt by all businesses and residents here.
I want to thank my personal advisors, Chad Decker and Colby Pack, as well as the advisory committee who gave their time working on the project. We also received overwhelming support from the community, as well as from all over the country, and we are thankful for that.
The importance of Lone Star Arena is undisputed, and we entered into the project with complete sincerity and the best of intentions. Our hope is that there may be another individual or group who may be able to take this project on.
But with heavy hearts, we are officially withdrawing our offer to purchase at this time.
– Cody Johnson
Johnson first announced his intentions in early September, saying he had a contract to purchase the facility, contingent on a 90-day feasibility study. It was determined that repairs to aging infrastructure and other renovations would be needed to attract event organizers whose options for host facilities include newer and updated arenas and public events centers across the region.
He sought assistance from Stephenville Economic Development Authority, and the entity hit the ground running. Executive Director John Hubbard requested the board of directors to consider the authority enter into a partnership with Johnson and provide financial backing and incentives of up to $1.2 million. During an executive session discussion on the issue, it was determined that SEDA didn’t have the authority to act on the request since Lone Star Arena is outside of the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.
But the SEDA board, Mayor Kenny Weldon and other community leaders pledged to continue to explore options available to Johnson, saying Stephenville needs a rodeo events center to maintain its Cowboy Capital of the World status.
But, community leaders say the importance isn’t just about pride and western heritage. The concern also relates to sales tax revenue collected from purchases made by visitors attending Lone Star Arena hosted events and the businesses that prosper when the facility is operating at full capacity.
Chad Decker, owner of Hard Eight BBQ, attributed 25 to 30 percent of his business to the arena, and Hubbard said a single four-day event held at the facility each year makes a huge impact.
“It is estimated the recent four-day Cowboy Capital of the World Rodeo event contributed over $2.5 million in economic impact to Stephenville, including spending on items such as food, hotel rooms, souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, saddles, tack, and other items from local merchants,” Hubbard said, adding estimated local sales and hotel occupancy taxes collected during the event was $50,791 for the city of Stephenville and $14,613 for the county.
The announcement from Johnson came just hours before a meeting of the Stephenville City Council, where Hubbard was expected to update city officials on options surrounding the issue.
Lone Star Arena is currently owned by La Tierra De Los Vaqueros, LLC., with Nicole Boyd listed as the manager according to property records online. The records indicate La Tierra De Los Vaqueros has owned it since September 4, 2012, and it is currently appraised at $2.4 million by Erath County Central Appraisal District.
In addition to PRCA and PBR events, Lone Star Arena has been home to CC5D (Cowboy Capital 5D) Barrel Racing, the Buck & Duck bull riding, a regional high school rodeo, an annual mounted shooting competition, events associated with the county stock show and much more.
Prior to the 2012 acquisition of the facility, it was operated by Paul and Marcie Sullivan, who worked to tirelessly to keep the arena booked with roping, barrel races, rodeos, equine events, as well as other events like dog and trade shows.
Some comments have been made that the current owners were not receptive to event organizers calls and unwilling – or unable – to make the repairs needed to bring the facility up to par.
It has also been said that the arena will likely be shuttered before the new year if a purchaser does not come forward, meaning events already on the books could be cancelled, sending the money associated with them elsewhere.