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Mesa del Sol Giddyaps to Horse Arena

By Charles D. Brunt
Journal Staff Writer
    A 132-acre parcel in the sprawling Mesa del Sol development south of the Albuquerque International Sunport has the inside track on being selected for a $12 million equestrian center proposed in January by Gov. Bill Richardson.
    New Mexico Rodeo Council Chairman Robert Detweiler of Carlsbad said Tuesday that a task force charged with recommending a site for the equestrian facility is wrapping up its work.
    "I can tell you right now that that (Mesa del Sol) location is leading the list due to all the resources that they've provided for us," he said after the Rodeo Council's regular monthly meeting.
    Detweiler said he expects a recommendation after the task force meets in mid-September. If the 12-member Rodeo Council concurs with the task force's recommendation, it will be forwarded to Richardson.
    "They've got all the pieces," Detweiler said of the task force. "They're putting them all together, verifying what (Bernalillo) County and Forest City Covington's recommendations are, and bringing in an architect that does these facilities."
    Forest City Covington is the developer of the 12,900-acre master-planned Mesa del Sol project— a mixed-use community that could one day accommodate 37,000 homes.
    Exactly how the state might acquire the 132 acres for the equestrian center— and possibly adjacent property to reach the 200 acres council members believe is needed for future expansion— is not clear, Detweiler said.
    It could be a combination of donated land and land purchased or traded by the state.
    "I believe it will be a little of both," he said. "That's what they (task force members) are going to be talking about" when they meet next month.
    The equestrian center— the centerpiece of Richardson's efforts to boost participation in rodeo, horse shows and equine events in New Mexico— could cost up to $20 million, the governor said in January after urging the Legislature to earmark $12 million for the center and $3 million for other initiatives. Lawmakers approved the money during the session.
    Richardson also said in January that he might ask the Legislature for additional funding next year to continue the efforts, which have included more than $750,000 in improvements to public rodeo facilities statewide.
    Task force member Caroline Stevenson said Tuesday that although Mesa del Sol is the clear frontrunner, potential sites in Bernalillo County and near Moriarty have not been ruled out.
    The governor-appointed Rodeo Council is charged with promoting rodeo in New Mexico.