Mitchell’s annual rodeo is headed to a new location after the Mitchell City Council approved an agreement on Monday to lease a piece of land near the airport where the event will be hosted.
With the council’s 6-1 approval of the lease agreement, the city will lease roughly 20 acres of land, located at 5951 Airport Road, to a new organization that plans to host future rodeos at the land directly next to the airport.
As part of the lease agreement, the newly formed Mitchell Rodeo Foundation would enter a 20-year lease with the city of Mitchell, stretching from Jan. 1, 2022 to Dec. 31, 2041, with the option to renew for another 10 years in 2041. Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson said the land could allow for a bigger rodeo arena than the Horseman’s Sports Arena along North Highway 37 near Lake Mitchell, which is where the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo has been held in late July for several decades.
“I talked to both entities, and my role is that I want to make sure the city is able to continue hosting the rodeo since it’s a great event that brings a lot of people,” Everson said.
For the past several decades, the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo organization has been putting on the annual rodeo that draws about 8,000 to 10,000 people each summer at the Horseman’s Sports Arena, which is owned by Horseman’s Sports Inc. -- the Corn Palace Stampede group’s landlords. However, an ongoing legal dispute between the two groups over matters relating to conditions of the lease and maintenance work of the rodeo grounds, to name a few, prompted the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo organization to inquire with the city about leasing land for a new rodeo event location.
During recent discussions with the local rodeo group, City Attorney Justin Johnson said a new organization that will be responsible for putting on the annual rodeo events at the new location was formed. Therefore, the newly formed Mitchell Rodeo Foundation -- which appears to be made up of many of the same members of the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo group -- is the nonprofit organization entering the lease with the city.
Jim Miskimins, Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo Committee Chairman and leader of the Mitchell Rodeo Foundation, said the plans for the new rodeo grounds would be a “Cadillac” facility that could open the door to host more, and larger events.
“What you’re contemplating tonight has little to do with what is going on between the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo and the landlords. It has everything to do with the long-term viability of the rodeo,” Miskimins said. “The other improvements that we have conceived would make this a Cadillac of a rodeo facility and one of the best in the state.”
While Councilman Marty Barington supported the rodeo moving to the new location, he addressed concerns with the longevity of the initial 30-year lease. For Barington, the longer lease would “tie the hands” of future council members to negotiate and assess the rodeo. He was the lone no vote against the 20-plus-10 lease plan.
“I just think it’s a long time to tie a property down. Not knowing where the future is going to be in 30 years, with the National Guard and airport out there,” Barington said. “I think any council has to have the right to work with the rodeo committee. I think we need to be careful with how we tie the hands of future councils.”
Barington suggested a 10 to 15-year lease as an alternative to the initial proposed 30-year lease. Councilman Jeff Smith shared similar concerns with Barington on the longevity of the lease, suggesting a 10-year lease with two 10-year renewal options between the two sides.
“That way there is a pause, and if you need to negotiate or not,” Smith said.
Council member Susan Tjarks’ proposal of a 20-year lease with the option to renew for another 10 years in 2041 ultimately received the council’s approval. For Tjarks, whatever the new rodeo organization was on board with to make the event happen each year is what she wanted to do, considering the big financial impact the event has on the community.
“I think about the contributions this event has to our city, and the sales tax it brings so there is nothing I would want to do to jeopardize the rodeo,” Tjarks said.
Council Vice President Dan Allen supported the 20-year lease agreement with the option to negotiate and extend an additional 10-year renewal option due to the timeline it could take for the organization to gain large sponsors and partners.
Miskimins supported the 20-year lease with the option to renew for an additional 10 years in 2041, noting it would provide time for the new rodeo group to build partnerships and sponsors.
“It would allow us to enter with long-term partners. The new organization would be a charity. It was not formed with this lease in mind,” Miskimins said, noting it would also help with the buildout of the rodeo grounds.
As part of the agreement, the Mitchell Rodeo Foundation would rent the land for $7,500 per year, marking a $5,500 increase from what the Corn Palace Stampede group currently pays to use Horseman’s Sports Arena.
Some of the notable stipulations in the lease agreement center around the process of making improvements to the rodeo grounds and maintaining the future arena, which are some of the matters the Corn Palace Stampede and Horseman’s Sports organizations have been disputing over throughout the past year.
On the maintenance side, the new lease agreement states, “except for required general maintenance, repairs, and replacements, the tenant shall not make or cause to be made or allow any construction, alterations, installations, or improvements to or on the premises without prior approval of the landlord,” which would be the acting mayor of Mitchell. In addition, the rodeo group would be solely responsible for construction, installations and improvements at the rodeo grounds.
The city also is requiring the rodeo organization to maintain insurance at the group’s own expense, including commercial general liability insurance, flood insurance, workers’ compensation and builders risk insurance.
In an attempt to avoid potential lawsuits, the agreement stipulates the rodeo group “shall indemnify,” or hold the city harmless from “liabilities, claims, demands, damages, lawsuits, judgements, expenses and costs of any kind or nature,” which Johnson said both sides felt was necessary given the ongoing lawsuit.