Renovation continues on rodeo grounds by M. Jill Karolevitz Local rodeo events have moved from one location to the other over the years, but a permanent home is the goal with this summer�s completion of the rodeo grounds renovation at Clay County Park.
The University of South Dakota used to have a very active rodeo club and utilized rodeo grounds located across the street from Burger King, until the facility was built at Clay County Park. The National College Finals Rodeo was held there in 1969 and other events included annual Little Britches and amateur rodeos.
Time, however, took its toll on the grounds after rodeos were no longer held in the area.
But due to an agreement with the Clay County Park Board, Coyote Country Rodeo, Inc. members are now working to restore the facilities, which will be used for the organization�s annual Bull-a-rama event (formerly held at the Clay County 4-H grounds), along with other activities such as team penning, roping and barrel racing.
�The old arena is completely torn down,� said Andy Howe, Coyote Country Rodeo treasurer. �And we�re about 75 percent done with the assembly of the new arena. The parking lot is really taking shape as well. Holding pens, gates and painting are all that�s left to do.�
Coyote Country Rodeo members have been working every other Saturday to complete the renovation project.
�We�ve had great help, too, from Waage Construction,� Howe said. �Every time we�ve gone out there, Brian and Brad Waage have brought their skid loader, which makes moving the arena panels a lot easier than doing it by hand.�
The new steel arena was purchased from Bob McKay of O�Neill, NE, the stock contractor who provides bulls for Coyote Country Rodeo�s Bull-a-rama. It measures 100' x 200', with 6-foot high panels. The arena includes chutes and holding pens needed for various rodeo events.
The existing concession stand, lighting and roping chutes were still �in pretty good shape,� Howe said, �so we didn�t have to replace those, but we�ll eventually look at increasing the toilet facilities and Clay-Union Electric agreed to reset the light posts and check the electric system.�
A sound system is also needed, but Howe said as Coyote Country Rodeo plans its events, contracts will include a provision for announcers to bring their own sound equipment.
�We may get our own in the future, but this will work for now,� he said.
New spectator seating is also needed, Howe said.
�We�re still working on finding something affordable,� he said.
As the club members continue their labor on the rodeo grounds, they are also working to get corporate sponsors for advertising from September to September around the arena. They also hope to raise money with a community facilities rural development grant for which they have applied.
Coyote Country Rodeo members approached the Clay County Park Board late last summer about using the rodeo grounds. The board then agreed to purchase the new arena if Coyote Country Rodeo members provided the labor to install it.
The Clay County Park Board still owns the rodeo grounds, but Coyote Country Rodeo will be responsible for scheduling events and providing maintenance. The grounds are also no longer open to the public as they were in the past.
�In another month or so, the rodeo grounds should be functional,� Howe said. �If someone wants to use them, they can contact any Coyote Country Rodeo member or myself. We have nothing scheduled yet for this summer, but we hope to have team roping, team penning and barrel racing events all summer next year.�
The Bull-a-rama will definitely be held there this year on Sept. 9, he added, with team roping events on Sept. 10.