Don’t make hasty decision about arena

Published 12:24 am Saturday, December 20, 2008

This is in response to the article about the county leasing the Covington Center Arena.

This arena was not what the people envisioned when the Blue Ribbon Saddle Club started raising monies for a covered arena. The BRSC started at the old fairgrounds on land donated by the city of Andalusia for an arena and panels that the saddle club bought with its money. The club did all the work to put that arena up. The Civitans then had a home for their annual rodeo. From there the idea of covering that arena grew and monies were collected and donated and placed in the Covington County Bank until sufficient funds were raised to cover the arena. During that time, the county and city decided to build the arena at the present site and in a much grander way.

The facility that grew out of this was way beyond expectations or needs. We have one of the nicest facilities in the Southeast. It went to such a grand scale that the very people who worked to have it built could no longer afford to use their arena.

As someone who has put on events at the arena from the time, I can’t really understand how the county has gotten into this situation with the arena.

Expense of $427,471 a year … holy cow … where are those expenses coming from? The payment of $236,421, leaving expenses of $191,050, on what? And this is above the rental income and fees? Just what is the income at the arena? Can we have a break down of the income and expenses for the arena?

The National Barrel Horse Association rented the facility 10 of the days that this facility was used last year and paid more than $22,000 to the county. We would have used it more if it wasn’t priced out of our association’s range.

If that is the case, why would any good business person want to rent the facility if it is losing money? The answer lies in the mis-management of the arena by the past county commission.

I hate to see this facility lost to the people of this county that worked hard to have it built. The members of the Blue Ribbon Saddle Club worked hard and long to build an arena that their families could enjoy, just like the other county recreational facilities that the county owns. Not every child plays baseball or softball or soccer, some ride horses and it is a shame that they are now losing the very arena that their families worked so hard to bring into the county. R. P. “Bob” Shelley would roll over in his grave.

There are ways that the county can continue to operate the facility and not at a loss. The present commission needs to revisit the advisory board and make changes to the way the facility is operated at present and see if it can’t be operate at a profit to the county instead of a liability. This facility is an asset to the county as well as the city of Andalusia. We have the facility and will have to continue to pay for it. Why make it where to very people who are paying for it can’t use it?

I know of several citizens of this county that would like to have our feelings and concerns addressed before the county makes any final decisions on this arena. Could a special meeting be held on this subject, wherein operating expense can be reviewed and made public, prior to any decisions being made?

This is a request for the commission to hold off leasing the facility until all avenues have been exhausted, before losing this opportunity for our county citizens.

Sandy Wiggins

National Barrel Horse Association district


Covington County

resident and equine owner