After unanimously passing a measure to install water and electricity at the Santa Fe Station Depot site, the Amarillo City Council tabled a measure to build a new events pavilion there for 72 hours, due to conversations about expanding the height of the pavilion that would make it more accommodating to a greater variety of events.
Beth Duke, director of Center City, expressed her excitement about adding utilities to the site and applauded the addition of a pavilion to bring some shaded area to the Santa Fe Depot.
“We are so proud that the city has allowed us to have our community market at this site,” Duke said. “It has been a challenge to hold events with no electricity and water. A covered area like the pavilion is going to be great, especially in the summer months. Looking at it as a multi-use facility with the restoration of the Santa Fe Station Depot will bring a lot of use and be great for the city. This really opens up the possibilities.”
Initially, the council was scheduled to vote on a proposed $1.5 million project for the pavilion that would not include concrete improvement at an entrance height of 14 feet to allow for larger trucks to enter. During discussion on the project, council member Cole Stanley proposed that if the pavilion could be made taller to about 20 to 25 feet, it would be able to be used for sports events, such as volleyball and basketball.
Stanley asked for a delay until the next meeting, but due to contracted responsibilities to tenants, the council decided as a group that it would have to plan within the next seven days at a bare minimum for the project to be complete on time. After discussion with Jerry Danforth, Amarillo director of facilities and capital projects, the council agreed to hold a special session on the proposal on Friday.
With time being of the essence in getting the pavilion built, due to its use for the World Championship Ranch Rodeo by the Working Ranch Cowboys Association (WRCA) and other scheduled events, the council was excited by the idea but wasn’t sure it could meet the time constraints of the scheduled project. Danforth presented the project to council as a solution for the WRCA and other tenants. In the past, the WRCA has had to foot the cost of erecting tents to stall its animals during its rodeo. The pavilion would also provide shade during other events, such as the Amarillo Community Market, which is held when temperatures are rising.
“The only reason I bring that up to the council is just in the way of, if you concreted that floor in one day, you’d have a massive cover for outdoor basketball, volleyball, things like that,” Stanley said. “There are so many things that we could envision in our community when we are talking about downtown and the massive investment that we have already made down here. You know, for $2.5 million to have a large outdoor recreation facility, which could really do some things.”
Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson and other board members seemed amenable to the idea of adding concrete and having more room for sports in the pavilion area, but they were concerned if the city could still reach its build timeline to be able to support the WRCA.
“I definitely envision this being an outdoor sports venue at some point,” Nelson said. “I think adding the concrete floor is something I’m very interested in.”
Leman Wall, association manager of the WRCA, spoke about the decision of the council to vote to modify its project and its possible impact on his group.
“The work today within the city council is to ensure that the building meets the needs of the city and its different user groups, our organization being one,” Wall said. “I think it is a temporary moment to make sure that we are doing “This is exactly right. The good news is that everyone seems in favor of the project. It has a lot of growth opportunities for our event and other user groups that can expand on these opportunities with this upgrade.”
Asked if the WRCA can make do if the facility is not ready by the time of its event, Wall said that there is still a hard deadline as far as time constraints, but he felt confident that the city will be able to get the project worked out on time. He felt that the project would be a benefit to improve the quality of events and create more space to use for a variety of events.
“I’m really excited; it will be a nice addition to the Santa Fe Station Depot,” Wall said. “This is a perfect way for the city and the WRCA to work together to make sure that our event can continue to prosper and grow.”
Asked about the added capacity the pavilion could hold for participants in the WRCA event, Wall said that the new pavilion would be able to hold 420 stalls, which is more than double the current capacity of 176 stalls.
“I think the results today were very positive with the potential being sought for this space,” Wall added.
Danforth weighed in about the possible expansion of the project and the need not to delay its start due to vendor commitments. He said he was surprised that the council had approached expanding the project and felt that the WRCA was incredibly supportive of the idea.
“You need some kind of shade structure at the Santa Fe Station Depot, and the initial height of the structure was proposed due to the nature of our current users of the facility,” Danforth said.
He said he was concerned with potential delays to the project, due to weather issues such as high winds, and the ability to get it finished on time. Danforth said he was willing to work with whatever the council wants, but time is a major factor.
“With the want to do be able to do athletics at the pavilion, which changes the dynamic and the design of the project,” Danforth said, “this creates a challenge, but we are ready to take on the challenge as long as we can meet the timelines to get it done.”
He said that the change is dependent on if the manufacturer has the capability to amend the project and its ability to get the materials to meet the demands. New designs would also have to be engineered, since the original proposal called for a 14-foot entryway.
“We will take a look at the proposed changes and try to make that happen in the next few days,” Danforth said.
The city council is scheduled to meet Friday afternoon to see if the proposed changes can be made and if so, will vote on the project. Missing from that meeting will be Stanley, who has a prior commitment.