Friday, July 9, 2010

End of an era: Rodeo renovation starts

Hailey wastes no time in breaking ground for project


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Ron Fairfax speaks at a ground-breaking ceremony for the new rodeo grounds Tuesday. Fairfax represents Hailey Ice, which plans to build an ice rink at the site after a 10-year fundraising effort. Photo by David N. Seelig

Salvage crews are taking the first steps toward a major renovation of the Hailey rodeo grounds this week. By this fall, there should be walls rising on a new rodeo arena and ice rink on the site at the south end of town.

Hailey voters passed a $3.5 million recreation bond in May, paving the way for the redevelopment of the high-profile site owned by the city. The bond is expected to pay for about half the cost of a new rodeo arena, ice rink, expanded skate park and visitor center. The rest will be funded by private donations.

Tons of old fir timbers are being taken down from the white palisade wall that marked the south end of the city for 62 years. The wood will be resold at the Wood River Land Trust Building Materials Thrift Store in the Woodside area of Hailey.

"'Own a piece of history.' That's my mottto," said Bruce Tidwell, manager of the thrift store, who worked Tuesday afternoon to bring the wall down.

Tidwell agreed to deconstruct the wall and wooden bleachers at no cost to the city, in the hope of recouping his costs by selling the wood to builders.

Proceeds from sales at the thrift store benefit the conservation efforts of the Wood River Land Trust. The murals on the arena walls have been placed in storage on city property for possible reuse in the new structure, which planners hope to finish by July 4, 2011.

"There has been evolving conversation between the city and the architects about this," City Administrator Heather Dawson said.

The Sawtooth Rangers riding club, which has operated the rodeo arena since it was built in 1948, will save the stock chutes.

Hailey Public Works Director Tom Hellen is scheduled to conduct a walk-through of the remaining rodeo arena structure on July 19 with potential bidders on remaining salvageable materials before demolition crews remove the rest.

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By Sept. 1, construction crews will break ground on the new ice rink and rodeo arena. Architect Michael Bulls said the ice rink will open for business in September 2011.

"We plan for the rodeo arena to operational by next Fourth of July," Bulls said.

One of the largest pieces of the redevelopment plan, the ice rink, is set to be built and managed by Hailey Ice, a nonprofit organization, with private donations, including an anonymous donation of up to $3.9 million. The donation will make possible expansion of original plans for a 28,000-square-foot, "bare-bones" facility to a 38,150-square-foot, year-round recreation facility.

The expanded version would be large enough to accommodate an inline hockey rink and indoor soccer, tennis and basketball courts.

The city of Hailey is expected to finalize a lease agreement this month with Hailey Ice for operation and management of the rink for the next 20 years.

Councilman Fritz Haemmerle led a City Council discussion last week about creating a board of directors that would ensure that the costs of enjoying the facility remain within the grasp of Hailey residents.

"We don't want it to become an exclusive country club," Haemmerle said.

Dawson said the city is in the process of obtaining a credit rating from Moody's rating agency to establish the values for the city's bond on the open market, based on the city taxpayers' ability to pay property taxes.

She said she expects final bids from financial firms to come in by July 26, which will bring in the funds for completion of the rodeo arena portion of the project. A construction manager will be hired this month by the city to oversee the project.

The recreation bond, passed by 71 percent of Hailey voters turning out, will increase property taxes for 10 years by $33 annually for every $100,000 in valuation.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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