Events Complex Proposes $24 Million in 6th Penny Projects

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SWEETWATER COUNTY—The Sweetwater Events Complex presented a list of their proposed sixth penny projects at Tuesday morning’s Sweetwater County Commissioner meeting, totaling over $24 million.

The Events Complex is proposing three items to go on the final ballot for the county-wide special purpose tax, which the voters will then choose to support or not.

The three projects are:

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  • Exhibit Hall Expansion and Renovation– Updating and modernizing the current facility to meet both local and national event needs.
    • Total project cost:  $6,780,000
  • Indoor Arena Building Renovation and New Indoor Arena– Building a new indoor arena would allow the existing structure to be used for multiple uses. With improvements, the current indoor arena (60,000 square foot building) could replace the complex’s current tent structures and open much needed space for year-round use.
    • Total project cost: $16,170,000
  • Water System Upgrade– To ensure safety requirements for fire flow are met, an additional water line into the Events Complex property is needed.
    • Total project cost: $1,135, 103

The total cost for all of the proposed projects totals up to $24,085,103. See more details about these projects below.

Larry Lloyd, Sweetwater Event Complex Director, explained that these projects are not only quality of life projects, but also have economic impact.

“This is really about being part of the economic well being of Sweetwater County and Rock Springs,” Lloyd said.

Justifying the Projects

Commissioner Lauren Shoenfeld said she would like to see some numbers backing up the need for the projects to justify the proposal. She said if there are increased requests for the exhibition hall that requires renovation and expansion, she would like to have specific numbers to look at.

Similarly with the indoor arena project, she would like to see vendor numbers to justify the need to build a new indoor arena and convert the exiting one into concession area.

Lloyd said there is an increase of about 27 to 30 percent in vendors, and that number is growing each year.

He added that the events complex has brought in $68 million all around since the National High School Finals Rodeo started coming in. With the National High School Finals Rodeo, the events complex was able to add some infrastructure that allows them to book many different types of events.

The NHSFR put the Events Complex on the map, Lloyd said, and it not only benefits the Events Complex, but also the businesses in Rock Springs and the county.

He said part of that $68 million includes the increased patronage to local restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, and more have benefited from when the rodeo is in town.

Prioritizing Projects

Chairman Wally Johnson assured Lloyd that he considers the Events Complex the second most important priority in terms of entities, Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County being the first.

However, Johnson said the county is looking at an $80 million to an $100 million tax, leaning towards the lesser as the residents are the ones paying the bill. He said that the Events Complex’s proposed projects would take up roughly a third of that amount, and that the county themselves haven’t even gotten a list of projects together.

Considering the other municipalities and entities that will propose projects for the ballot, Johnson said they will definitely have to make significant cuts to every entity’s projects and prioritize.

Commissioners Jeff Smith and Roy Lloyd echoed Johnson, saying they have to be able to justify the projects and dollar amounts to the public.

Commissioner Lloyd pointed out that though these projects may be vital to the community, they have to present a ballot that the public will approve of. He said if the “ticket price” is too high, it could take upwards of 12 years to pay off.

Chairman Johnson said that a 12 to 15 year tax is not something that will be favorable to voters.

“We have to set priorities,” he said of the projects.