With the transfer of ownership of the rodeo grounds from the Skirvin family to the city of Philomath, the possibility of the property opening up to use by other organizations appears to be on the table.
Chris Workman, city manager, mentioned the possibility of the Philomath Youth Activities Club eventually building an athletic field or two on the grounds if the two entities come to an agreement.
“We’re waiting to hear back from them to see if it’s viable,” Workman said. “He was going to go out and walk the property and see where the sun sets and how things could line up and see if it was even viable in a good spot.”
Workman was referring to Eddie Van Vlack, PYAC director, who said the discussions are in the preliminary stages but could be very beneficial if they can pull the pieces together.
“We don’t want to do a whole lot of legwork on our end until we have the thumbs up,” Van Vlack said, mentioning there are still approval processes with both the PYAC and Frolic & Rodeo boards, as well as the city council. “Once we have the thumbs up, then the next couple of steps with us would be getting out there and seeing how much excavation would need to take place.”
The city will own the property with the requirement that it leases the grounds to the Frolic & Rodeo.
“I think the Frolic & Rodeo is under the understanding that when the Skirvins donated it, they donated it to the city with the request, well, the requirement on the deed, is that it be used for Frolic events and for use by the city and residents within Philomath,” Workman said. “I think the Frolic board, to its credit, is looking at that and saying, ‘well, how do we best utilize this property?’”
In the past, Workman said he believes the Frolic & Rodeo board has always tried to be respectful of the Skirvins — they live right next to the rodeo grounds — and limit events to the main attraction each summer along with a youth rodeo.
“We’ve tried to not do a whole lot of other events there because it was not our property,” Workman said. “But with the transfer and the rodeo now taking full maintenance and management responsibilities on, I think that we’re really looking out to the community to see what is the highest and best use of that property as a public place.
“If that’s rodeo and riding events and more equestrian sports, then that’s what we’ll look at,” Workman said. “If it’s working with PYAC on youth sports and fields and baseball diamonds that are a need in the community, I think that’s more than appropriate.”
There is a demand for the use of athletic fields in Philomath.
“The challenge is we have such an incredibly high turnout rate of the number of participants for the size of a community we’re at … another gym and another ballfield are always at the top of our wish list,” Van Vlack said. "We’ve had such limited space available, especially field-wise.”
The Philomath School District is the primary provider of space for PYAC sports with six fields available. A field at Philomath City Park is also utilized.
Van Vlack said the idea of the rodeo grounds evolved out of a casual conversation. Workman called to discuss a scheduling conflict with the city park field and it soon turned into talking about how it would be great to have more local fields available.
Workman, who is the Frolic & Rodeo president, and Van Vlack presented it to their respective boards.
“Both groups sounded like they were very interested in trying to make something work but at this stage, there are probably way more questions than answers,” Van Vlack said. “But from our standpoint, the biggest need — even if we could just get a practice field or two over there.”
Van Vlack said the current space works for the scheduling of games, but it’s finding places for teams to practice that becomes the true challenge.
As he said, there are questions.
“I know that area floods and so one of our biggest question marks is how much time and resources do we want to put into a field that’s going to flood every year?” he said.
Van Vlack estimated that the cost of a basic ballfield would run a little over $22,000.
Workman said any group that utilizes the property will need to be prepared to manage and maintain their sites. The Frolic & Rodeo doesn’t have the capability of building an athletic field and maintaining it.
“The Frolic & Rodeo isn’t getting money to keep up the grounds,” he said. “Any partnership that we did enter into, we’d be looking for PYAC or whatever group was interested in doing more with the grounds, to provide the volunteers and the labor and the maintenance, and sometimes that’s money, sometimes it’s volunteer hours.”
At this time, the possibility that the PYAC could utilize the Frolic & Rodeo grounds is still just an idea to be explored.
“Still a lot to go, it’s in its infancy but I think the invitation’s open,” Workman said.