The Sand Springs City Council moved forward Monday night with a plan to evict the Sand Springs Round Up Club (SSRUC) from River City Park and to demolish the rodeo arena. Nearly two dozen individuals from the SSRUC turned out to observe the regular meeting. Two spoke in defense of the organization, but the Council voted unanimously to confirm a unanimous recommendation from the Parks Advisory Board.
In a staff report presented to the Council, the Parks Department reported that “the situation has eroded at the Sand Springs Round Up Club’s (rodeo) facility to a point where they are no longer viable…with near record high use in the park…the time has come to dedicate the approximate 3 acres of space to future ‘higher and best use.’ Additionally, the City can no longer support the expenditure of public (taxpayer) dollars to support the club’s activities. In the short term, mixed use, multipurpose sports fields are planned there.”
Richard House, president of the club since January, spoke in protest of the decision. “We’re working, we’re trying to grow this club. This is a partnership. This is a group that’s been around for 71 years…we have to work with the City and with the Park’s leadership. The club is financially successful. We’re not insecure, we’re a viable club. We have 28 events on our schedule. We were busy driving that membership, creating new events, driving more participation.”
House and City leaders were at odds on almost all facts of the situation. Mayor Mike Burdge objected to the age of the organization, its level of participation, the state of the grounds, and the amount of time that the organization has been on a downturn.
According to the staff report, “At the October 2016 meeting of the Parks Advisory Board (PAB), all clubs provided reports on their activities. Concerns were raised about the SSRUC’s lack of events, attendance and maintenance. They were asked to ‘step it up.’ At the April 4, 2017 PAB meeting…the PAB moved to allow the club approximately 90 additional days (including a big rodeo event on Memorial Day) to show good numbers, statistics, improve maintenance and the overall look of the grounds and more.”
House stated that the organization was given only 60 days, not 90, and that they nearly doubled their membership during that period. Mayor Burdge said that the problems with the club have been going on for years.
According to House, “the Use Agreement specifically states that the City will maintain the safety of the facility. That stopped happening a year ago.” He also alleged that Parks Director Grant Gerondale inspected the bleachers just a half hour before the Andy Downs Memorial Day Rodeo, during which a spectator partially fell through a rotten board in the stands. Gerondale denied performing any sort of inspection and said he was only there for a few minutes to photograph the crowd. He stated that it is the responsibility of the SSRUC to inform the Parks Department of any maintenance needs.
Section 4 of the Use Agreement states that “The City shall maintain grounds to ensure public safety.” It also says that the SSRUC “shall be responsible for any damages occurring to City property that are a result of USER volunteers, coaches, players, board members, or by the general public during USER events. “ According to City finance records, the bleachers are 35 years old and are fully depreciated.
House also claimed that Gerondale’s tally of 121 attendees was taken half an hour prior to the rodeo and did not accurately reflect on the number who showed up right at event time.
The PAB met on June 5, 2017 and voted 7-0-0 in favor of terminating the agreement. The City Council also voted 7-0-0 in favor of approving the request by the PAB. The SSRUC will be given till October 31 to finish their season, then will have until December 31 to remove all of their property from the facility. Council also approved up to $10,000 to demolish the facility if needed.
Despite the unanimous vote, the SSRUC has begun circulating a petition on change.org to save the arena. Organized by Jared Brown, the petition has garnered 637 supporters at press time with a goal of 1,000.
“Sand Springs has a heritage of rodeos in this arena and there are plenty of citizens that would like to see that tradition continue,” states the petition. “I am hoping that this petition will help communicate how important it is to the people of Sand Springs.”