Arena poised for even bigger economic and recreational roles, manager says
by Jeff Richards
Contributing Writer
Jul 11, 2013 | 1454 views | 0 0 comments | 67 67 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Old Spanish Trail Arena manager Steve Swift looks over the construction of new ball fields adjacent to the arena, a project that is expected to be completed by this November. Photo by Jeff Richards
Old Spanish Trail Arena manager Steve Swift looks over the construction of new ball fields adjacent to the arena, a project that is expected to be completed by this November. Photo by Jeff Richards
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While contending that the Old Spanish Trail Arena (OSTA) is already an economic boon to the community, arena manager Steve Swift says he hopes recent and future improvements will bring even greater benefits to area residents.

Swift, who has been in charge of the facility for the past three and a half years, recently made a presentation to the Grand County Council, in which he outlined several recent improvements made to the facility and talked about its overall economic impact.

The OSTA hosted some 23 events last year, Swift said, adding that he didn’t count the ongoing non-paid use by winter indoor soccer leagues. Although the paid events in 2012 generated only about $16,000 cumulatively in arena rental fees, Swift said the facility’s benefit to the community is much greater.

For example, according to the annual report given to the council, the largest event, the Easter Jeep Safari, drew about 5,000 attendees, of which an estimated 3,000 were visitors to the area, with many of them staying a full week or even longer. When the visitors’ local expenditures on gas, food, entertainment, and lodging are taken into account, Swift said a conservative estimate of Jeep Safari’s total economic benefit to the community is around $3.4 million.

The other 20 or so events held at the arena last year brought another 2,000 visitors to the Moab area, making the total economic impact of all events between $3.6 and $4.2 million, Swift noted in the July 1 report.

According to the report, the Easter Jeep Safari infused $3.4 million into the local economy this year. The UTV Rally on the Rocks in May, with 550 visitors, added $319,000, the Land Rover Safari in October, drew 260 visitors, brought in $178,000, the Canyonlands PRCA Rodeo in June, drew 400 visitors and brought $153,000 into the economy, and the Rock and Gem Show in October drew 300 visitors and brought in $82,000.

Swift said that so far, 2013 is shaping up to be an even better year for the OSTA facility, which generated about $40,000 in revenue in 2012, mostly from arena rentals and horse stall rentals. That amount was down from each of the previous three years. However, halfway into 2013, this year’s arena rental totals have already nearly matched those of last year, Swift said.

“We seem to be heading back up again,” he said. “We did lose a couple of events, but we’ve attracted some new ones.”

Swift said the facility could feasibly accommodate 40 events per year.

“Our goal is to bring more people in the summer and winter and increase the facility’s year-round use,” he said.

Swift oversees two other full-time employees at the facility, which has a current annual budget of about $255,000.

One major project already underway is the construction of a new ball field complex adjacent to the arena. Swift said the project is expected to be completed by November, at which point grass will be planted on the two softball fields and the two soccer fields.

“Depending on whether the grass gets established, we could see light use on the fields by next spring or early summer,” Swift said, adding that while artificial turf was considered as an option, the cost proved prohibitive, as did the notion of adding a water tank.

Instead, Swift said a new water well will be drilled and used for watering the grass. That well water will be supplemented as needed with Ken’s Lake irrigation water, he said. Swift said the arena has an annual allotment of 56 acre-feet of irrigation water, of which only a small fraction is currently used. Swift estimates that less than 20 acre-feet per year will be sufficient to maintain the grass fields.

Funding for the $2.3 million ball field project is primarily coming from the Grand County Recreation Special Service District, which will operate the ball fields, along with a $923,500 grant from the Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund Board. 

After the ball fields are completed, Swift said a playground will be constructed nearby.  Several other planned projects have been lined up to take place over the next 10 years, he said.

Swift said several improvement projects have already been completed at the facility, including stabilization of one of the barns, new implements including a tumbleweed puller and a dirt leveler, a new drainage system in the front parking lot and sidewalks, crack seal repairs in the parking lot, bathroom roof repairs, a new round pen for horse training, upgraded sound equipment, and detention pond refurbishment.

Swift said the arena also recently spent $5,000 on safety equipment and upgrades.

Swift said he hopes the facility will continue to see frequent use by locals and visitors alike.

“The idea is for this to become more of a community recreation center,” he said.

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