Threat of no rodeo spurs SRA to act
Although the specifics are under wraps, the Snowmass Resort Association may lend some private muscle to efforts to save the Snowmass Village rodeo.
“Of course we’re concerned about the prospect of the rodeo going away,” said SRA president Terry Hunt. “We stand ready to be a major part of whatever endeavors are put together to help keep the rodeo.”
The SRA has long been a supporter of the rodeo, Hunt said, and for years has helped subsidize the event with “substantial” financial and marketing assistance.
“In and of itself, it’s hard to determine what the economic impact of losing the rodeo would be,” Hunt noted. “But it’s like a house of cards – together with amenities like the summer chairlift rides, the summer concert series and things like the guided nature hikes, an infrastructure is built and there are combined reasons guests come.”
In terms of loss to the town’s summer economy, Hunt likened losing the rodeo to “that game with sticks we played as kids.
“It’s a question of how many sticks can you pull out before the pile comes crashing down. … I can certainly say the rodeo is one of the major sticks in the pile.”
Since Lance and Bill Burwell, owners of the rodeo grounds, listed the 20-acre parcel for sale, Snowmass Village Mayor T. Michael Manchester has stated an interest in trying to save the grounds for public use.
Manchester noted the host of public amenities that could be located on the site in addition to the rodeo, including a community pool, baseball diamond and a permanent venue for Jazz Aspen’s summer events in Snowmass. The property is located along Brush Creek Road near the entrance to town.
An initial hurdle, however, is the parcel’s $5.5 million price tag. In 1995, when the town asked voters to buy the rodeo grounds, the parcel was appraised at under $1.5 million. After the purchase was voted down, the Burwells bought the site for $1.75 million in 1997. They are now asking $5.5 million for the property.
Co-owner Bill Burwell noted that he would “take into consideration” an effort to publicly buy the land, but suspects a broader coalition will be needed to put together a deal.
“At this point it looks like a public/ private partnership is the only way to save it,” Burwell said. “The Town Council only has so much bonding capacity to work with and with bonding for Droste and the parking structure, that doesn’t leave much ability to buy a $5.5 million rodeo. I wish they did, that would get me off the hook, but I think it’s just big talk.”
The summer rodeo events, which have drawn up to 20,000 people over the course of a season, are allowed as a “grandfathered” special use of the site, since the rodeo predates the founding of the town. However, the property is also zoned for two single-family homes and 25,000 square feet of commercial space.
The real estate listing for the property, however, offers “development scenarios” that include “10 townhomes, single-family homesites, an employee housing project, commercial property and or operating it as an equestrian facility or rodeo.”
A future property owner would have to apply for Planned Unit Development approval from the town in order to build more than two homes and a commercial operation. But so far, private development interests have made up the bulk of inquires regarding the property, Burwell said.
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