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Arena manager shares info

There’s quite a buzz around the county about the arena. I just wanted to make known my own thoughts and actions concerning this great facility. The arena features an 82,000 square feet covered arena with 2,500 seating capacity, a covered warm-up and an outdoor arena. We have 252 stalls and 76 RV hook-ups. Stalls rent for $10 a day or $25 a weekend. The indoor arena rents for $650 a day. It can also be rented for personal use or non-profit for $300 for five hours, and $200 for three hours. For ticketed events, we charge 10 percent of the gate or $650, whichever is greater. These rates are comparable with other arenas of our size. We have a staff of three permanent employees, temporary concession workers for shows, and inmate labor to run the facility.

The arena was opened in the fall of 2001. It was the idea of some visionary Covington County Commissioners and citizens. They formed a committee to decide what to build and the location of the arena. They appointed Stanley Wilson, PhD, a retired Auburn professor to chair the committee. These are some of Dr. Wilson’s recent quotes per article in the Andalusia Star on Nov. 22, 2008. “The Covington Center Arena is doing just what it was designed to do – increase local traffic and provide an entertainment venue for the public. The primary thought behind the project was to promote economic development while providing an avenue for agricultural venues. Everyone is experiencing tough economic times but it’s unrealistic to expect the arena to produce enough revenue to support itself. Tough economic times are everywhere in every way. The commission may have to tighten their belt in some way but it would be very unfortunate if the arena had to be put on entirely make your own way basis. We didn’t look at it in any other way than an economic development project.”

I was honored to be chosen manager and still believe their vision is an asset to our county. I’d like to take this opportunity to inform the citizens about our great facility. At the arena we have many different types of events. Some are dependent on viewer or buyer attendance, others are dependent on entry fees from exhibitors in the shows. Sometimes individuals rent the arena for practicing their skill.

Equine shows produce their revenue by participants in the show. The exhibitor pays an entry fee to enter their horse in the show. There are many types of horse shows. We host National Barrel Horse Association, American Quarter Horse Association, Team Pennings, Open Horse shows, Calf and Team ropers, Arabians, Miniature horses, Paso Fino, Walking Horse, Junior and High School Rodeos, Mule and Donkey, Paint Horse, Hunter Jumper, Dressage, Cutting Horse – many of these have more than one show each year. Each show requires a different set up between shows – pens, bucking shoots, matting, stall cleaning and preparation, cleaning the facility, dirt wetting, reveling, and creating consistency for the next show requirements, arena set up, PA system servicing, advertising, coordinating show crews – meeting personal needs during attendance – food, lodging, medical, mechanical etc., staying at the facility during show to help with lighting, dirt, public disputes, needs, concession workers, stocking and provision. Also seeing that insurance and contracts are in place before show takes place.

We have buyer type events. The Cattlemen, Brangus Association and horse sellers have staged sales at the arena. The success of these shows depends on public attendance to purchase sale items. We have entertainment events, we have hosted Monster Trucks, Professional Cowboy Association finals Rodeo, Bull Riding, Pat Parelli, Martha Josey, David Lechman Clinics, Civitan Rodeo, Lipazzaner Stallions, Motorcross, various concerts, both Christian and Popular, Royal Hanniford Circus, Horseshoe Contest, and a Bluegrass Festival. We have hosted the Rattlesnake Rodeo, Wildlife Cook-off, and City Fest. We also host the Covington Fair Livestock show. These shows require heavy advertisement in TV, radio, newspaper, signs, and poster distribution. These shows require a great investment by the promoter and they are highly dependent on public attendance. Tickets must be sold and managed in advance. Concessions must be provided.

I am constantly contacting other potential shows to bring here. Good arena selling points are our central location, down home climate, and a great facility to offer. We are getting more widely known and picking up more shows each year.

I welcome ideas from the community for utilization of the arena. I welcome your comments. You can email me at thecovcenter@andy-cable.com. You can also visit our website at www.thecovcenter.com for a listing of events and other features.

The economic impact for our county is very important to consider in the growth of our county. People make every business survive and businesses provide jobs for us and future generations. An example of your own arena economic impact is listed on page 33, Table 15, of the Alabama Equine Industry Inventory, Impacts, and Prospects published in Bulletin 662 June 2006 from Auburn University. These are actual expenditures for one yearly show, we have at our facility. Alabama State NBHA Championship, Andalusia: Entries 414, Event days – 2, Entry fees – $10,350, Other fees – $28,980, Trainer fees – $9,315, Lodging – $31,050, Meals – $37,260, Local purchase – $8,280, Fuel – $31,050, Total Expenditures – $156,285.

This book is available at my office if you would like to stop by and see it.

I would like to see the people of Covington County look at the arena as an asset for the county and promote it. Find ways as a community to embrace people coming to the Center. I want what is best for Covington County.

None of us know what the tough times will bring. I feel the present Covington County Commissioners will take into consideration the economic impact of the arena as they look for ways to overcome economic challenges.

Thank you!

Tony Wells is the manager of the Covington Center Arena.