Gilbert will not renew its lease of the town’s Rodeo Park from Maricopa County, citing water-rentention costs at the former landfill site.
The 47-acre facility, located at 1777 S. Val Vista Drive, has been leased to Gilbert since 1982 and hosts two of the most popular events at the annual Gilbert Days, the rodeo and carnival.
“This could put Gilbert Days in jeopardy,” said Chelle Bullard, president of the non-profit Gilbert Promotional Corporation, which operates the Rodeo Park. “We want to see this tradition carry on. But we have been given a huge challenge here, so we need to take a step back, evaluate our options and go forward.”
The lease expires on Feb. 15. Town officials have vowed to assist the GPC in finding a site for a new rodeo grounds and with relocation.
County spokeswoman Cari Gerchick said that Feb. 15 is not a “hard and fast” termination date.
“If the town wanted to extend it for a short time, we would have some flexibility there,” Gerchick said. “But that would be a decision for the town, and it looks like they’ve already made that decision.”
Although the county is responsible for water retention and other upkeep, Gilbert would have to pay for temporary removal of the arena and other structures so the land could be graded and a drainage system put in place.
The ground on top of the former landfill constantly shifts and cannot be penetrated. That makes it not conducive to permanent structures, and drainage is difficult to control.
Still, Bullard said, the GPC has made “significant” upkeep to the grounds in the past year, including new bleachers and arena maintenance. She said the organization hoped to use some of the proceeds from this year’s rodeo, held last weekend, to construct a new arena.
“Those dreams have kind of been squelched,” Bullard said. “But we’ll press on. …
“I know the community loves the parade — it’s the biggest turnout for Gilbert Days — but it is a rodeo parade. It would be a lot different feeling if it wasn’t. I feel the rodeo and parade go hand-in-hand. It’s just not right to have one without the other.”
The Rodeo Park is booked for events through May 1, and Bullard said she hopes that the county will allow the GPC to honor those commitments if the town opts not to push back the termination date.
“That is a legal question we would have to take a look at,” Gerchick said. “I don’t know if we can legally enter into an agreement like that. We’ll have to see what we can do if that is presented before us.”