Victoria Horseman's Club, city negotiations to begin

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Sept. 18, 2012 at 4:18 a.m.
Updated Sept. 19, 2012 at 4:19 a.m.

Victoria Horseman's Club will continue holding its lease at Riverside Park -- for the time being.

During Tuesday's city council meeting, council members voted to table a resolution to terminate the club's lease at the public park in favor of working out a new contract with the group. The current lease is set to expire in December 2014.

Councilman Paul Polasek led the discussion, saying he wants to see the arena continued to be used.

"My personal opinion is that the facility is not up to standards for the city," Polasek said. "If we have put too big a burden and expectation on that group, then that's not fair."

The issue came up earlier this year when Councilman Tom Halepaska suggested the city find a new group to take over and renovate the rusting facility.

The Victoria Horseman's Club has been in Riverside Park since 1953.

"I'm not against the Horseman's Arena, I'm not against anyone," Halepaska said. "It's clear the arena is in terrible condition ... It's not about wanting to kick them out, but something's got to get done."

He asserted that the club has been given "too many last chances" to get in compliance with the lease agreement, which required the club to maintain the facilities and make certain repairs.

Parks and Recreation Director Doug Cochran said the contract breaches include failure to provide a plan for improvements of the restrooms, maintaining the fences, concession stand and bleachers, as well as electrical connections not being up to code.

"A coat of paint could have stopped the rust," Halepaska said. "We're talking $50,000 to $100,000 to address some of these problems."

The resolution also states that current fees charged for using the arena do not match the fees set out in the lease agreement. In addition, according to the resolution, the Horseman's Club also has not provided the city a list of revenues and expenditures for the concession stand.

LaSher Bartay, a horseman's club member, said the nonprofit group is too stressed financially to comply with the lease.

"Being nonprofit, there's only so much we can do," she said.

She hopes the council will give financial support when the contract is amended.

She estimated the expense to make the necessary repairs to the facility are too "extreme of an amount," and is "more than we can handle."

While other members called the decision a "blessing," Club Vice President Donna Sparks said committee discussions with council and city staff will be a good starting point to improving the arena.

"We would love to see a new facility in Victoria," she said. "But if we don't have the Horseman's Club Arena, we have nothing."

The committee includes councilmen Polasek, Joe Truman and Emett Alvarez, as well as Parks and Recreation Director Doug Cochran, City Manager Charmelle Garrett and four members of the horseman's club.

Truman said he wants to see the community come together to make the arena "a showplace for Victoria."

"It's so dilapidated that it will take a serious effort to make it usable," he said. "The bottom line is that it's city property and we're willing to spend money ... but it will not be in this year's budget."

He said the city "asked too much" of the club, but that it wants to encourage the area's equestrian history.

"We have great rodeo traditions here," he said. "Let's continue to grow it."

Polasek said he is pleased with the council's support.

"It gives us a chance to work some things out," he said. "Let's continue the use of the facility and see it get improved to meet community standards."



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