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May 6, 2016

Long Planned, Greatly Anticipated Socorro Rodeo Soccer Complex Nearing Completion

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Ravi Bhasker says that the early reviews on the as of yet-of-yet finished rodeo and soccer complex in Socorro have all been favorable.

“Everybody likes what they are seeing,” says Bhasker, who is the long-time Mayor of Socorro. “It’s just very exciting for us to finally be at the point where the complex may at long last be done.”

Gordon Hicks agrees: “The soccer fields, the concession stands, the space for the rodeo itself,” says Hicks, who is a member of the Socorro City Council, “all of that, and more, show that this is really going to be a one-of-a-kind facility.”

For outsiders who may view rodeos as quaint throwbacks to a distant past when a majority of Americans lived on a farm, the need for a new facility to house rodeo activities might seem unusual.

But in Socorro, surrounded by farmland and ranches, rodeos are a way of life.

Every year, during the Labor Day weekend, the Socorro County Fair, held at the county fairgrounds, and featuring a wide variety of rodeo events, rides, competitions, baking contests and even a pet parade, brings in thousands of visitors from across the region and the state.

But Socorro leaders realized more than a decade ago that the popularity and demand for rodeo is more than a one-weekend thing.

“It’s something that can go on anytime of the year,” says Toby Jaramillo, also a Socorro city council member.

“And because we are located right in the middle of the state, that means we can attract people here to a new arena from every direction—and not just in in New Mexico.”

The soccer portion of the new complex was opened last year and has since been used, according to Bhasker, by “both New Mexico and Arizona schools.”

As word of the new soccer fields has spread, so has the regional interest in playing on them. “We have groups from other parts of the state, and Arizona, contacting us all the time and asking about using this facility,” reports Jaramillo.

 

SOCORRO SOCCER FIELDS, COURTESY LLOYD MARTINEZ

With massive steel girders supporting a roof that measures at least half an acre, everything about the new complex as it relates to rodeo and livestock show is big: a practice area measuring roughly 100 by 150 square feet; more than one hundred open and closed stalls; and some 75 hook-ups for the recreational vehicles parked overnight.

“The idea is that you drive up and everything is within walking space,” explains Hicks. “There are stalls within 30 feet, practice areas within 50 feet, and the main rodeo rings within 100 feet—everything is there for the contestant.”

So far the price tag for building the new arena comes to around $2.5 million. “We did a bond issue for $1.2 million, and got the rest in a state appropriation,” says Bhasker.

It has additionally helped that area representative Don Tripp is also the Speaker of the New Mexico House. “He has really looked out for our interests on this project, doing what he can to help us get it done,” says Bhasker.

Even though the new arena will be specifically geared for rodeos, local leaders emphasize that it will in no way be used to compete with the popular county fair.

SOCORRO RODEO COMPLEX, COURTESY LLOYD MARTINEZ

“We promised them we would leave them alone and let them have their event,” says Hicks.

But the chances that the new facility could someday host a state fair seem good, thinks Bhasker. “We could add a whole new venue here by doing that.”

The project is also seeing the construction of fencing, piping, and bleachers, and a grand stand with seating for up to 800—with the possibility of expanding that to 2,000.

SOCORRO COMPLEX, COURTESY LLOYD MARTINEZ

Local leaders say when the work on the arena is at last complete, which will probably happen by next fall, Socorro could be on the verge of a new economic era.

“It’s going to bring new revenue into the town, into the hotels and restaurants,” says Hicks. “In every way it’s going to be a good thing for our town and the county.”

 

By Garry Boulard

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