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A new 10,000-seat arena at the Utah State Fairpark is 95 percent complete and will be ready in plenty of time for the Days of '47 Rodeo debut at the venue, says Larry Mullenax, park executive director.
The $17 million facility was funded by the state ($10 million), Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City ($3 million), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ($3 million) and private donors.
"The new arena is a great example of how the community benefits when a public and private collaboration is formed," said Mullenax.
Although it is set to be finished July 1, the arena will have its first private event June 30. The first large event is the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America's annual rally from July 13 to 16, which the organization estimates will host 6,500 BMW motorcyclists.
The Days of '47 Rodeo has been held at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in years past, but this year it will take place at the state Fairpark.
"It's new for the Days of '47 Rodeo to be in such a big venue," said state Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, who is also on the Days of '47 executive committee. "In the Vivint Smart Home Arena, they've always been very contained."
The kitchens in the arena aren't yet fully equipped, so organizers will provide theater concessions during the rodeo and food trucks will sell meals outside.
The arena was built to accommodate rodeos, but during the planning process, officials neglected to fully budget for bull shoots and rough stock panels, which are necessary for competition. Initially, $25,000 was set aside for rodeo equipment. The Fairpark ended up paying $145,000 to ensure that the arena was suitable to host rodeos.
Okland Construction was commissioned for the arena project, while the Utah Division of Facilities Construction and Management oversaw the work.
Mullenax said all involved are proud and excited about the outcome.
"[DFCM and Okland Construction] ensured that the new arena will last for many generations to come," Mullenax said. "Additionally, the design and shape of the arena ensures that each seat will have a spectacular view of the event. There really isn't a bad seat in the house."
Fairpark officials expect the Days of '47 Rodeo July 19-22 and 24 to increase exposure and draw new acts to the venue. Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, estimated last year that the arena has the ability to generate an extra $1 million in revenue annually.
"Now you're going to have this whole enormous event taking place that I think will bring attention from other people that may be interested in doing something big and see the Fairpark as a place to do it," Escamilla said.
With the approaching completion of the arena, state officials hope to change the atmosphere of the Fairpark. Pat's Barbecue is relocating full time to the park. Mullenax said that the Fairpark is speaking to other companies that are interested in moving to the park as well. The place aims to eventually become more than a venue for events but a nightlife destination.
"The arena will allow the Fairpark to produce and promote numerous events rodeos, barrel races, concerts, motor sports," said Mullenax. "The exposure and positive economic impact on the surrounding Fairpark community will lead to additional development opportunities."
The Fairpark's original Coliseum, built in 1913, was condemned and destroyed in 1997, according to Fairpark Chairman Roger Beattie. Work on a new rodeo arena started in 1982, but the funding for the project was diverted to fight flooding and buy pumps to stem the rise of the Great Salt Lake.