By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer
Gov. Bill Richardson plans to distribute more than $250,000 to counties across New Mexico to promote rodeo.
Curry County will receive $50,000, according to a news release from the governor’s office.
Eastern New Mexico University will receive $30,844 to improve its rodeo arena while Quay County will receive $24,404 for upgrades to an existing facility.
“Rodeo may be the most uniquely American sport and it is a rich and vibrant part of New Mexico’s cultural history,” Richardson said. “These investments will help get more New Mexicans involved in rodeo events.”
The governor said Curry County’s project was recommended to him by the Rodeo Council, which he created by executive order last February. The Council was created to cultivate ways the state can develop and support the sport of rodeo at all levels and promote and attract competitive rodeo events.
Clovis’ Gloria Wicker said she served as Curry County’s voice after being appointed to the council by Richardson.
“I’m very happy we got the money,” Wicker said. “I’ve been horse crazy and rodeo crazy all my life.”
Wicker said the money will be matched by Curry County and used to build the infrastructure for approximately 100 animal stalls at the Special Events Center planned to be built on the west side of the Curry County Fairgrounds. Wicker said the estimated cost per stall is $1,000. “Eventually I would like to see 1,000 stalls,” Wicker said, “because every stall we build will attract more events.”
County Manager Dick Smith said a groundbreaking for the Special Events Center is tentatively scheduled this month but may be pushed into February pending the schedules of supporters.
“All six local legislators supported the construction of this facility,” Smith said, “so it will depend on the legislative session schedules because we want to thank everyone during the ceremony.”
Smith said construction on the building is estimated to last eight to 10 months. The simple metal structure will have a fixed seating capacity of 4,000 with additional floor seating of 2,800. The county manager said the center will have the capacity to be utilized for many different functions and will be completed by the end of the year.
“The center can be used for concerts, rodeos or animal shows,” Smith said. “The list is large.”
Wicker said she believes the construction of the special events center is crucial to Curry County’s economy due to the possibility of Cannon Air Force Base closing.
“Anything we can bring into the economy is a plus with Cannon’s uncertainty,” Wicker said.