Rodeo, motorsports backers at odds over fairgrounds

Cooperation required if fairgrounds to improve, say Mohave officials

Bryce Barnes from Las Vegas, Nev., competes in the tie-down toping event last September during the 28th Annual Andy Devine Days Rodeo at the Mohave County Fairgrounds.<BR>JC AMBERLYN/Miner

Bryce Barnes from Las Vegas, Nev., competes in the tie-down toping event last September during the 28th Annual Andy Devine Days Rodeo at the Mohave County Fairgrounds.<BR>JC AMBERLYN/Miner

KINGMAN - A long-simmering dispute about competing uses at the Mohave County Fairgrounds is coming down to dirt, money and an edict to start getting along.

Mohave County District 1 Supervisor Gary Watson threw some cold water on escalating mudslinging between rodeo and motorsports fans Monday night, telling a special meeting of the Fair Association Board that Mohave County has $50,000 available for fairgrounds improvements - as long as there's a plan for multiple uses.

"You have got to figure out a way to hold the rodeo and motorsports events. The whole idea is to increase the revenue stream," he said. "The Board is here to make sure that this becomes a multi-use facility and the money collected is put back into the facility.

"The community owns the property and the community wants more entertainment."

The rub is that both the Kingsmen, who put on the annual Andy Devine Days Rodeo, and the motorsports events coordinators want to use the area immediately in front of the grandstands.

For the Kingsmen, that would involve moving the rodeo arena 60 feet toward the grandstands, including specialized dirt that meets Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association standards to protect both livestock and riders. The goal is to entice more horse riding and rodeo events to the fairgrounds.

Motorsports event coordinators protest, though, saying that moving the arena forward would prevent them from using the grandstands because the association has told them they can't move the special dirt in the arena.

"We were told only equestrian events were allowed in the arena. We weren't even allowed to put people in there," said Jim Bell of Cerbat Motosports. "I have no issues holding our events out behind the arena, but then we can no longer use the grandstands and the fairgrounds loses out on one of its greatest sources of revenue from us."

The only thing the Kingsmen asked for was that the dirt in the arena be replaced or protected during motorsports events, said John Burgess.

"Why can't the rodeo follow the same rules that we have to?" asked Joe Webber, also from Cerbat Motosports.

Once their events are over, motorsports coordinators are required by the fair association to restore the fairgrounds to its original condition. The rodeo is not.

"I don't understand why we can't have both. I think we need both," said Jamie Taylor from Kingman Regional Medical Center.

The hospital has been a sponsor of both motorsports events and the rodeo.

"We have lots of land here," Taylor said. "We want to see a win/win situation for everyone involved."

Fair Association Board member Jon Keitz suggested folding down some of the front panels of the new rodeo arena and putting plywood over the dirt to protect it.

Dusty Lewis, who is both a rodeo and motorsports fan, said putting plywood or a tarp over the arena dirt wouldn't work and replacing the dirt after each motorsports event could be expensive.

"You're looking at a lot of money, perhaps $10,000 per event, and you can't mix the soils," he said. "It costs about $2,000 a year to process the arena for the existing rodeo."

Fair association board member Bruce Bollinger asked about erecting a temporary structure for motorsports events, an idea Bell said was "feasible."

Watson noted that the association could make improvements up to $50,000 without seeking approval from the full county Board of Supervisors.

The debate then turned to whether the association board should accept the $50,000 offer from the county.

Association board member Gerald Olsen argued that the board needed to provide the county with a business plan and a way to raise the matching funds before it could accept the money.

Keitz argued that the association should take the offer and figure out a plan to raise the matching $50,000 later.

The association board voted 8-1 to accept the money from the county.