Archive for Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Shriners moving rodeo to Tonganoxie

January 24, 2007

It's official.

A second rodeo will be coming to the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds.

Fair board officials, as well as a representative from Abdallah Shrine Rodeo, formally agreed Monday to bring the group's rodeo to Tonganoxie.

The rodeo, which will be held Memorial Day weekend, is a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association sanctioned event. This year, festivities will be held May 24-26.

David Todd, fair board president, said the contract calls for the Shriners to pay the fair board $7,000 with an annual option for the same amount in 2008 and 2009. The annual option will continue for 2010 and 2011, with rent set at $7,500 each of those years.

"There's a lot of mumbo jumbo in there, but they'll get the facility for basically seven to 10 days," Todd said about the agreement.

Todd said he was excited about the economic opportunity the rodeo should bring to the area.

"This is the kind of event that gets media attention," Todd said. "We don't have enough positive public relations. I see this as a positive thing for the city and the county."

The Abdallah Shrine Rodeo will enter its 48th season when festivities get under way this May in Tonganoxie. The event originated at the Wyandotte County Fairgrounds nearly a half-century ago. The annual activity was held for 23 years in Wyandotte County before moving to Kemper Arena for the next 20. The rodeo moved back to the Wyandotte County Fairgrounds where it was held the last four years.

After last year's show, though, organizers needed to find a new venue. The fairgrounds have been in limbo since the United Government of Wyandotte County sold more than 300 acres, which included the fairgrounds, to a group for development of a multimillion-dollar water park. The grounds are northeast of Interstate 435 and State Avenue.

Shrine Potentate Doug Smith, who attended Monday's meeting at the fairgrounds administration building, said the move to Tonganoxie was logical. It's about a 15- to 20-minute drive from the previous venue. He expects the Tonganoxie venue to attract people from Atchison, Leavenworth and Lawrence. And, it should be an ideal draw with Tonganoxie and other surrounding towns being smaller communities.

"For rodeos, I kind of think that's what you need," Smith said.

The rodeo has been complemented by a car show, carnival and craft fair in the past, something Smith anticipates will continue in Tonganoxie. He also said the rodeo was one of the group's biggest fundraisers.

The fair board also will continue to hold a rodeo during the Leavenworth County Fair through Six Crowns Rodeo Company.

Seating at the rodeo arena is expected to eventually double in capacity. The fair board and the Abdallah Shrine purchased various rodeo equipment, including bleachers and a press box, from the Wyandotte County Fair Association. Todd said Tonganoxie's rodeo arena currently holds about 1,800. With the new seating, which Todd thought eventually would form a horseshoe around the arena, would bring capacity to more than 4,000 when installed. The two groups split the cost of the equipment, which was about $7,000, Todd said.

When the fair board and Shriners first discussed moving the rodeo to Leavenworth County, Shrine officials said they offered organizations, such as 4-H clubs, the chance to operate concession stands.

But Todd said the board preferred charging rent.

"It'd be easier for us to hand you the keys and let you handle it the full 10 days," Todd said.

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