Tres Rios committee votes no for 2014 high school finals rodeo bid


By James Monteleone The Daily Times
Posted: 11/11/2009

AZTEC — The Tres Rios High School Rodeo Association on Tuesday voted to not invite the National High School Finals Rodeo to return in 2014, citing the national association's lack of concern for the losses communities incurred hosting the event.

The decision of the local rodeo committee, comprising area government and business leaders, departs from many members' previously stated attitudes that the local benefits of hosting the rodeo outweigh the taxpayer money invested.

"In good conscious, I just don't think I see that benefit versus the loss that we incurred," said Farmington Mayor Bill Standley. "I think they're thumbing their nose at the communities."

Tres Rios Executive Committee members Tuesday cited concerns that the Denver-based National High School Rodeo Association has continued to request increased local investment, while charging the communities $55,000 each year to host the event in addition to taking a large share of other revenue sources.

"They should be coming to us and saying, How did you do? What can we do to make it better?'" said Standley, an early advocate for first bringing the national event to McGee Park in 2002.

Finalized financial statements reviewed Tuesday indicated more than $124,000 in taxpayer money was lost by hosting the 2009 National High School Rodeo Finals, a significant improvement from the $225,000 projected to be lost when the budget was last reviewed in September.

But adding in unaccounted labor and utility costs, the deficit could be as high as $325,000, the Tres Rios board agreed Tuesday. A report detailing the rodeo's affect on the regional economy still is being compiled.

Hosting the 2008 finals rodeo, local communities were also in the red, reporting more than $186,000 in losses that year, according to the rodeo financial report.

"From the private (business) side, why would we get involved with something we're losing money in? Especially with a partner who isn't concerned with us making money or at least coming back even," said Tres Rios committee member Bill Florez, representing Jaynes Corp.

If Tres Rios was to seek the rodeo in 2014, the board would have to compile a bid to present to the National High School Rodeo Association during its January conference.

Tres Rios agreed to withhold bidding at the January meeting. However, the committee said it may reconsider playing host if the National High School Rodeo Association agreed to help local communities cut some of the incurred losses rather than continue to expect continued facility upgrades and investments.

"We're not interested in the current arrangement," San Juan County Executive Officer Keith Johns said.

Renegotiated hosting contracts were allowed at the Gillette, Wyo., site but previously rejected in Farmington, the Tres Rios committee noted.

"In the past, they've known we're anxious to have it here. That put us at a disadvantage," said Tres Rios chairwoman Peggy McWilliams, who represents ConocoPhillips.

National High School Rodeo Association Executive Director Kent Sturman said Tuesday he was surprised to hear Farmington would not seek the 2014 rodeo.

"They've not brought anything to our attention. We're not aware that they've lost money on that event. We have not had any communication on that matter," Sturman said. "Last we were told is that they were very interested in bidding to bring the event back."

Tres Rios Executive Director Beth Utley disputed the statement, saying concerns regarding the taxpayer shortfall were clearly expressed after the 2008 high school finals rodeo.

James Monteleone:

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