Rodeo arena ‘two-thirds’ complete

........................................................................................................................................................................................

As the Socorro County Fair dawns, a look into the annual event’s future shows Socorro may not be far from a new rodeo facility.

Eric Heinz — El Defensor Chieftain: Major steps in the construction of the Socorro Rodeo Arena were made earlier this year, such as the implementation of the roof.

Mayor Ravi Bhasker is hoping through the state’s legislative funding process that Socorro will be eligible for a substantial chunk of funding to finish the rodeo arena on the west side of town.

“The building property is almost done, but then we still have to fill it in with corrals, turn alley and all the paraphernalia that goes with a rodeo arena,” Basker said. “I doubt if we’ll be able to have an event in there until next spring or summer.”

Bhasker said most of the concentration of using the capital outlay at this time has been directed to the soccer fields. The rodeo arena funding came as a package deal with funding earmarked for recreation.

“We want to have it totally finished,” he said.

The arena is at the top of the city’s Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan (ICIP), which is used to apply for funding for capital outlay projects. It also helps government entities prioritize those projects.

With the project about two-thirds done, the mayor said, it’s going to take at least an additional $500,000 (if not more) to the $2.3 million already appropriated to the site from state funding. The arena is to be a semi-outdoors, covered building. The building itself is more than 52,000 square feet and should be able to hold 3,500 people, once bathroom facilities and other amenities are installed.

“With lighting and sound (systems), that in itself is going to be another $400,000,” Bhasker said. “We’re hoping we get that the next cycle.”

Bhasker said it is more than just buffering the town’s economic needs in receiving this funding. There is a deeper reason behind the effort to push for the funding.

“I consider that an economic development project, but in the long run, that is a piece of infrastructure that we hope will satisfy the recreational needs of this community,” he said. “We’re a farming, ranching community, and we have lots and lots of kids who have really excelled in rodeo. What we want to do is try to promote rodeo in high school, also.”

The Socorro County Fair Grounds have been a centerpiece in the community, but Bhasker said right now they’re not adequate for larger-scale events. Additionally, he said he’d like the area to house some kind of statewide fair.

“If we can do one event a month, 10 to 12 events a year, that are rodeo-related, I think that would be a success,” Bhasker said.