Proposed arena could be helpful for area high school sporting events, graduations
The prospect of opportunities for area high school sports teams with the proposed arena/events center in downtown Grand Junction is enticing for School District 51 Athletic Director Paul Cain.
“The first thing I can think of is Fruita-Junction basketball where we had to turn people away at the door,” Cain said. “I know I heard a lot of people say they didn’t want to go because of the kinds of crowds. That would help.”
That game when people were turned away was Feb. 3 at Fruita Monument High School. Grand Junction’s gym — the largest in the city with maximum capacity at 2,763 fans — didn’t suffer an overflow factor.
Cain said this wasn’t the first year people were turned away from watching a Grand Junction-Fruita basketball game in Fruita, despite the gym’s official capacity of 1,938.
A report given to the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce from Hunden Strategic Partners out of Chicago noted the proposed arena could host a variety of indoor sports events like football, hockey, lacrosse, boxing, mixed martial arts, concerts and rodeo performances.
For the school district, Cain said, one possibility could be the expansion of the prestigious Warrior Classic wrestling tournament, which had a field of 40 teams in December. He added that high school graduation ceremonies could also be held at the proposed facility, alleviating any worries of weather concerns and avoiding possible mid-May scheduling conflicts with Colorado Mesa University.
Most outdoor graduations are now held at Stocker Stadium.
Cain also said there have been times when such a venue — proposed to hold 7,500 for basketball — could easily host a Class 2A or 1A state basketball tournament.
Colorado High School Activities Association Assistant Commissioner Bert Borgmann said such a venue would receive consideration to host a state-championship event, though he added a preference is typically given to “an area where most of our membership is.”
Grand Junction City Manager Greg Caton said venues like the proposed addition to Two Rivers Convention Center mirror the intentions of the strategic plan made by officials in Oro Valley, Arizona, to attract youth athletes. That city made a $5 million renovation of the city pool, which enticed the Western Zone Championships and the 2014 U.S. Synchronized Swimming Championships.
“Even during recessional periods, parents will spend money on their kids so they can have those experiences knowing they’ll only have them once,” Caton said.
The ballot measure does have its skeptics.
Steve Yates, owner of Golden Fights Cage Wars in Grand Junction, said he looked into what the possibilities would be for the proposed facility and was quoted a $14,000 event fee to host one of his events.
Landon Balding of Monumental Events said that number was unofficial and was strictly an early estimate based on what resources would be used during such an event, including security, stadium-seating setup and staff fees. He also said one-time events are charged more on a per-event basis than tenants with long-term lease agreements.
“Would I love to see it? Yes,” said Yates, whose mixed martial arts fights have drawn more than a thousand spectators in the past. “Can I afford it? No.”
In the past, Yates has held fights at Brownson Arena and the Two Rivers Convention Center.
Though the Hunden report noted possible rodeo events, Grand Junction Event Center Committee Chairman Mike Anton said no events would be booked to conflict with rodeo events at the Mesa County Fairgrounds on Orchard Mesa.