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Proposed indoor arena not popular

SANTA FE, N.M. — Plans by the nonprofit that runs the Rodeo de Santa Fe grounds to build an indoor arena on acreage off Rodeo Road got a cold reception Monday night from a small crowd that gathered to discuss the project.

Meeting attendees, most of whom live in the surrounding neighborhoods, voiced concerns about the impact of arena traffic, falling property values, water consumption and the project’s odds for success.

“The traffic is going to change and we’re going to change with it. What we want from you today, this is the meeting where we want your input. We are now at the point where we’re ready to finalize the plans,” Dave Copher, president of property owner and developer Rodeo Property Inc., told a crowd of around 30 people at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center.

A Rodeo de Santa Fe Arena would be about 130,900 square feet and hold a maximum of around 6,000 people, planners said Monday. It’s anticipated the project would take about 18 months and cost nearly $30 million to build.

The facility would be used mostly for rodeo and equestrian events, as well as a disaster-relief facility during emergencies, according to a feasibility study commissioned by the rodeo properties board.

However, “I don’t think the neighbors are worried about rodeo-type events. I think, for me, I’m worried about the traffic for big venues,” area resident Robin Wiener told the Journal.

Several people harkened back to 2008, when a visit by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama to the nearby Santa Fe Community College clogged traffic on Rodeo and other streets for hours.

Wiener and others also wondered whether an arena would be able to attract entertainers. “How many concerts are we really going to have, big events?” Wiener asked.

Some said the city should focus its attention on promoting existing venues like the Santa Fe Community Convention Center.

Dianne Howes, who runs a 4-H program, said she hopes the rodeo grounds will continue to be accessible, financially and otherwise, to local youth.

“There’s a whole county of kids that need this … this facility is not just affecting this neighborhood,” she said.

Project planners said a major project goal is to ensure that traffic during events flows as smoothly and steadily as possible. Traffic improvements would likely include adding a new right-in, right-out only intersection on Rodeo near Richards Avenue, paving the main entrance into the rodeo grounds, and adding and lengthening turn lanes. The feasibility report also proposed making some modifications to the existing light signals “which should optimize vehicular movements for all operations.”

Copher said the plan is to have on-site parking and, in the case of the largest events, a park-and-ride scheme with nearby Santa Fe Place mall. “These are all things that are very important for us to look into,” he said.

The feasibility report emphasizes “the importance of engaging a professional operating group to promote and manage the new facility, which done properly should provide a sustainable facility that in turn will provide a positive revenue stream in increased gross receipts and lodgers tax to the City and County of Santa Fe and the State of New Mexico.”

Architect John Padilla said the rodeo properties board doesn’t plan on seeking variances or special exceptions for the arena’s design. The facility will have a maximum height of 24 feet, he said.

“We have been very diligent in going to the city and making sure what we are proposing meets that design criteria and being respectful of the fact we are in a residential neighborhood, trying to keep it at a lower scale,” Padilla said.

It’s still unclear how the arena will be funded. So far, the city of Santa Fe has provided the project with $100,000 and Santa Fe County and the state have chipped in another combined $100,000 for the feasibility studies. The Legislature also recently allocated $230,000 for design work for the project.

However, Copher said Monday the intent is to find private funding to build the arena. Several meeting attendees also complained that planners haven’t reached out to them. Some people said they didn’t become aware of Monday’s meeting until earlier in the day.

Rodeo officials responded that they’re doing their best to find and contact people. They also pointed out that the current slate of meetings is an informal attempt to solicit input. The project hasn’t reached a point where public meetings are even required, they said.

Ultimately, the city of Santa Fe will have to approve the project.