Horse facilities get early favor at fairgrounds
Expect to see horse trailers and recreational vehicles with plates from a host of Western states, and equine enthusiasts staying and spending in our area in the near future and beyond.
A key focus of the new Mesa County Fairgrounds master plan — adopted last week after years of planning and consultation — was new facilities for horses and livestock. And it’s looking more and more like those new additions will be part of any initial plan for development of the property.
The county built $1 million of improvements two years ago — including a new horse barn and expanded riding arena — and has since seen demand for those facilities grow as well.
Weekends between March and October were mostly booked solid this past year, and horse-related events were up 33 percent this year versus two years ago, according to the county.
That’s why a leading organizer of local horse shows was before county commissioners on the day they adopted the master plan — to share how much the prior improvements have made a difference to his specialized community.
“In years prior, when the fairgrounds kind of started deteriorating, we moved (our shows). We’ve been out of Mesa County for seven years,” said Bub Poplin, president of the Western Slope Reining Horse Association.
“(With) all of the improvements that you have made, we adopted you again — to have all of our shows here,” he said.
Poplin said he brought three major shows to the county in the past year, with more than 2,000 entries over 11 days. His group estimated it brought $1.6 million in economic benefit to the community over that short stretch of time.
But as Poplin told commissioners, he doesn’t think what they’ve done so far is enough to satisfy the demand.
“The problem that we are running into, we are going to outgrow the facility as it is,” he said. “We’re looking at moving our shows again. And that’s what we don’t want to happen.”
Poplin hoped commissioners would support the majority of the plan that proposes improvements to the east end of the fairgrounds.
It recommends building two new stall barns and a new covered arena, among other improvements. That slice of the plan is estimated to cost $7.1 million.
The proposal for the west side of the property contains a number of infrastructure and transportation improvements, and a new traffic signal and intersection is set to be built on that end of the property. Many of those structural improvements likely will be a part of whatever initial plan is approved for development. That segment also includes a new professional-level BMX track.
Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, the only current commissioner who will have a say in what gets built at the fairgrounds in the next few years, has expressed support for the equestrian and livestock part of the plan.