This weekend’s Arcadia All-Fla Championship Rodeo will be the last in its historic facility as construction is underway for a new $7 million, 7,796-seat covered arena.
This is the third time the 89-year-old Arcadia rodeo has moved since it began.
“We have outgrown our current location,” said Don Hall, president of the Arcadia Rodeo Committee. “It’s a good problem to have.”
The new arena can fit about 1,600 more spectators than the current one and will have two barns with 100 stalls. The long-term plan is to expand to 300 stalls, Hall said.
In addition to more seating, the individual seats will be twice as wide. Before, seats were nine inches wide, and the new bleachers will allow for 18 inches of space per person.
“Some buy two seats so they can get more room,” Hall said.
Although the arena will be new, the current bucking chutes and roping boxes will be installed at the new site.
Most of the current arena was built in the 1950s, but some was rebuilt following Hurricane Charley in 2004, and discussion for the new facility began shortly after.
“The rest of the structure took a beating and has some twisted components – the wind completely twisted some of the I-beams,” Hall said.
“I never had a doubt (that a new arena would happen). I always say time and patience are your warriors; and if you have the time and patience, you will prevail – if you’re persistent, it will happen.”
The biggest difference fans and competitors will notice is the roof covering the entire arena and grandstands.
“We are limited in Florida because it’s so hot in the summer, you can’t do anything in the heat,” Hall said. “The Fourth of July rodeo used to be the biggest rodeo, but nobody would come because of the heat.”
The tricky part about covering an arena is keeping the support beams out of the way, and Arcadia’s new setup won’t have any poles – but it will have a state-of-the-art skylight system to eliminate shadows that can be troublesome for barrel racers and photographers.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the arena was held in January at the location of the new arena, roughly two-and-a-half miles down the road from the rodeo’s current spot, which will remain in use through October.
The new facility, Mosaic Arena, is named after one of its biggest donors, the Mosaic Company Foundation. Nearly half of the total construction cost is covered by a grant from the foundation and other donors.
Efforts are underway to raise another $2 million for the new arena, but the arena will still open in the fall, even without the $2 million.
The Mosaic Arena is adjacent to the Turner Agri-Civic Center and will work with the county-owned and operated center.
The Arcadia All-Fla Rodeo’s economic impact is huge for the DeSoto County’s 30,000 residents. It’s estimated that 94 percent of the rodeo’s patrons are from outside of the county. The 2014 rodeo attracted 16,000 visitors and generated about $1 million in economic benefits to the area.
“It’s such an economic driver for the community,” Hall said. “We don’t have the population or the draw that Orlando and Kissimmee have, so we have to make an effort to pull people in – but we have very loyal fans.”
Fundraising is an integral part of the Arcadia rodeo’s roots. The rodeo began in 1928 when the local American Legion wanted to raise money for a new building, and the rodeo continued ever since.
Although the rodeo is celebrating its 89th year in 2017, this is the 58th year it has been held at its current facility. From 1938-50, it was held at Ed Welles’ arena – the grandfather of William Welles IV, who went on to become the association’s president.
The Florida Cowboy Museum will have a 2,000-square-foot space inside the arena named after William Welles IV – a former president of the Arcadia rodeo association who died in 2013.
“Any time you move, it’s a difficult decision because we have a lot of history here and we’re doing the best we can to preserve it with an atmosphere that’s similar,” Hall said.
The doors and gates are slated to open in mid-November.
Donations may be made at www.arcadiarodeo.com or by calling 1.800.749.7633.
“When it’s done, I’ll be ready to do a backflip – don’t think I can make it, but I can try,” Hall said.
Courtesy of PRCA