MT. PLEASANT—The potential of Snow College developing a horse arena that might complete with the Cleone Peterson Eccles Equestrian Center in Mt. Pleasant caused concern for attendees at a recent meeting of the Mt. Pleasant Community and Renewal Agency meeting (CDRA).
Monte Bona, executive director of the CDRA, told people at the meeting he had met with Derrin Owens, economic development director for Snow College and also a state senator representing Sanpete County.
According to Bona, both agreed that they did not want rumors to guide the discussion and instead wanted the issue to be transparent.
Bona said Owens had refuted the rumor that the Snow facility would cost more than $5 million. The Snow officials said what was being proposed was a building housing classrooms for the school’s agriculture program, plus a small equestrian practice arena.
At the CDRA meeting, officials representing the Eccles Equestrian Center, which includes the ConToy Arena, expressed concern that if a facility at Snow was to pursue commercial events such as the Little Britches Rodeo, barrel racing events beyond simply training the Snow barrel racing team, or if Snow were to install grandstand seating, it would be a direct threat to the Mt. Pleasant-based facility.
Bona said Owens had assured him that Snow had no intention of using its facility for commercial purposes, had told him that Snow has always supported the ConToy Arena, and had said if commercial events came to the school’s attention, he would refer them to the ConToy.
Such head-to-head competition, if it were to happen, would pit two state-funded equestrian facilities against each other. Construction of the Contoy was primarily funded by a $1 million-dollar loan from the Utah Community Impact Board (CIB) and a $565.000 CIB grant.
The ConToy Foundation contributed another $125.000, and later the George S. and Dolores Dore’s Eccles Foundation contributed $345,000.
Wasatch Academy pays Mt. Pleasant $20,000 per year to run its equestrian program at the equestrian center. Other revenue sources include fees from large riding events and user fees. The Mt. Pleasant Recreation Programs puts in about $84,000.
Using those funds and other sources, the CDRA covers annual payments of $48,000 on a bond taken out to cover the CIB loan.
In the past few years, the facility has become self-sustaining, with operational revenues covering the expenses.
Bona said ConToy has become one of the most popular facilities for equestrian eventing in the West. But Bona said that revenues barely exceed expenses, and that if it had to compete with another arena 15 miles away—especially one staffed by people whose labor costs come out of the school’s academic budget—there’s no way ConToy could keep up.
“If the two projects develop into competing facilities, it would be two state-funded projects trying to compete for the same marketplace dollars,” Bona said, “and that could take both projects down. Mr. Owens said that wouldn’t happen, and I take him at his word.” After intense discussion, Councilman Bull Keisel moved that Bona draft a memorandum of agreement in regard to Snow’s plans and forward it to Snow College for their signature. The council unanimously concurred. Bona is in that process now.