Tony Parra and Tonya Garner: Freedom Newspapers
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.”
David Browder, ENMU rodeo coach, said the $30,844 will go towards six new chutes, replacing the old ones. Browder said they’re going to use the money for new pens behind the chutes, also.
“Work on the chutes and pens will take place this summer,” Browder said. “The pens and chutes are worn out. We’re going to tear out the pens and replace the six chutes with new ones. It’ll make the arena more attractive and safer.”
Browder, who has been rodeo coach for six years, said the arena was built in the mid-70s. He said this is the first time they have received money from the state of New Mexico for such a project. Browder said the grant application was sent out in October.
“He’s (Richardson) done all he can to promote rodeo throughout the state,” Browder said.
According to Browder, there are between 35 to 55 rodeo participants on the team each year. He said he’s hopeful to have the work complete in time for the fall semester and the collegiate rodeo competition in September at the ENMU arena.
Browder said the governor is also allocating $300,000 for rodeo scholarships but he said he hasn’t heard word on how much ENMU will receive to attract students to the university.
As for the Curry County project, 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.