The complex was pitched by organizers as a multi-use facility that could accommodate a wide range of indoor activities — from open horse riding and barrel racing to soccer and archery to boat shows and cattle sales — to bolster Cody’s winter economy and support local youth.
“There are so many things it can be used for,” said Tony Scheiber, a Cody veterinarian and Cody Stampede Board member who’s helping lead the effort for the facility. However, he also stressed that it would not be a convention center.
“Convention center is not part of us,” Scheiber said.
The idea is to pay for the facility and as-of-yet-undetermined Powell and Meeteetse projects with a county-wide capital facilities tax. Doing so would need the approval of county voters, likely in November 2012.
Attendees at the Thursday meeting at the Cody Auditorium were given four-page color brochures outlining one vision for the center. Scheiber said the Cody Stampede Board produced the materials for a “Stampede Park Indoor Arena,” about a year ago.
If a temporary 1-cent cap tax were to fund an equestrian center, Scheiber said a joint powers board likely would be created to oversee the facility, with county, Cody and Stampede Board officials appointing representatives to the joint board.
The building envisioned in the brochure would be 425 feet long by 150 feet wide, with pens and rooms built around a 1,500 seat arena with a dirt floor. A separate unheated building would hold horse stall. But the proposal was just a starting point. At Thursday’s meeting, Scheiber and others took input from a generally enthusiastic audience on just how big a facility should be, what uses it should accommodate and how it can appeal to non-horse people.
Scheiber said it was important not to overbuild the center by copying those in bigger cities.
“We’re not Billings or Casper or Nampa (Idaho), we’re Cody,” he said.
One of the cited Cody-specific issues for the center is hosting winter events, like team roping or rodeo, that can bring visitors to the city’s restaurants, hotels and other businesses in the tourism off-season.
Rental fees would need to cover operations and maintenance for the facility, Scheiber said, but youth programs like 4-H, FFA, college rodeo and high school sports would be allowed free access and have precedence.
The envisioned location is just east of the Cody Stampede grounds, on the city’s west strip.
Cody Enterprise publisher and center proponent Bruce McCormack told meeting attendees that the $13.2 million sum used in Park County’s 2006 capital facilities tax was very readily accepted by the public, and he suggested that number be used again.
This time, McCormack says, Cody and Powell should swap figures, with Cody getting $9 million for the equestrian center/its operations endowment and Powell getting $2.2 million. Meeteetse would again get $2 million.
McCormack suggested that a smaller committee of people interested in the equestrian center should spend the next six months honing a specific proposal — planning and coming up with a specific design and uses for the facility. The six months after that — from the spring until the November 2012 general election — would be spent rolling out the plan to the public and campaigning for it.
McCormack said the equestrian center group must find partners in Powell and Meeteetse and form a Three Musketeers-like “all for one and one for all” campaign for the tax.
Powell Mayor Scott Mangold, meanwhile, said he was planning to hold a meeting with Cody and county officials this week on a different 1-cent pitch. Mangold wants to put together a proposal for an ongoing 1-cent tax that could be spent on upgrading Park County infrastructure, such as improving roads and paying for county landfills.
That proposal will only be put to the public if all four local governments (Powell, Cody, Meeteetse and Park County) are on board, Mangold said.