Group works to save Gilbert Rodeo Park events as lease nears expiration - East Valley Tribune: Gilbert

Group works to save Gilbert Rodeo Park events as lease nears expiration

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Posted: Friday, December 3, 2010 3:20 pm | Updated: 5:12 pm, Wed Jun 8, 2011.

The nonprofit organization that operates Gilbert Rodeo Park hopes to explore options in earnest next week in the wake of Gilbert’s decision not to renew its lease on the facility with Maricopa County.

Chelle Bullard, president of the Gilbert Promotional Corporation, will meet with county officials on Tuesday in hopes of saving events booked at the Park through May 1, as well as the annual Gilbert Days.

The lease on the former landfill site ends on Feb. 15, although the county has indicated it could have flexibility on a termination date.

“We’re going to talk, but no progress has been made yet,” Bullard said.

“The summer months are lean, so when we can make money in the spring, that’s advantageous. But more important than the money is the commitments that we’ve made with the Rodeo Park that we don’t want to go back on.”

Town spokeswoman Beth Lucas said in an e-mail to the Tribune that Gilbert officials are exploring options for a new permanent location for the GPC, “but I don’t have any (details) to release.”

Citing necessary water-retention remediation costs of as much as $4 million, Gilbert opted not to renew the lease it has

held on the property since 1982.

Bullard said that the GPC would be hard-pressed to remove the rodeo arena, stables and other structures from the 47-acre site by mid-February.

“I hope they have a larger window for us to move,” Bullard said. “The time frame of having everything off there in 90 days without much notice … for a volunteer organization to remove everything before then will take a miracle.”

The park has held two of the more popular events during Gilbert Days, the rodeo and carnival.

“The rodeo and Gilbert Days are a great tradition in Gilbert, and we don’t have a lot of those,” said Kathy Tilque, president and CEO of the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce. “To lose it would be hard, and that comes from a sentimental view than from the standpoint of how much money it can raise.”

Tilque said that the Chamber will serve a “supportive” role to the GPC during the new site-search process.

She said the rodeo — which attracts competitors from around the country to stay and eat in the town — helps local businesses during Gilbert Days, but added that the annual celebration is mostly about town pride and tradition.

“It isn’t a boon by any means,” Tilque said. “Does it create an awareness of Gilbert and our businesses? Yes, but it’s hard to put a dollar amount on how much money comes in during Gilbert Days.”

The budget for this year’s parade — the most popular Gilbert Days event — was about $20,000, well below the $70,000 spent in years past.

In 2009, the parade was nearly canceled before private donations saved it.

Queen Creek has approached the GPC about the possibility of staging the rodeo at Queen Creek’s newer Horseshoe Park & Equestrian Centre.

Bullard said that holding the Gilbert Days Rodeo outside the town for one year would not be sacrilege.

“If it’s a temporary solution while we get a permanent fix, we would be grateful for that,” Bullard said. “However, I don’t think that’s a long-term solution.

“Other communities have reached out with a temporary fix, and we appreciate that. But we’re the Gilbert Promotional Corporation, and we want to — we exist to — promote Gilbert.”

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