The City Council heard comments Tuesday from people opposed to the arena’s removal as more than 100 supporters packed council chambers and the lobby area outside.
“I can’t give you a count of the number of people, even tonight, that have told me, ‘This arena has been a part of our family for generations,’” Jo Ellen Lyons—who organized a petition drive to preserve the arena that had more than 2,200 signatures as of Tuesday—told council members.
The rodeo arena, located at 415 E. Morrow St., Georgetown, was initially built in the early 1940s but rebuilt in 1950 following its collapse from flood damage. The Posse held its 75th annual rodeo in the arena last month, which attracted more than 8,300 attendees, according to organizers.
San Gabriel Park was included in a citywide parks master plan in 2008. A revised plan specific to San Gabriel, adopted in 2015, included four phases of development and expansion.
The third phase includes removal of the rodeo arena and a nearby show barn to make way for a large festival area suitable for concerts and other events.
City officials have suggested the Posse could move its rodeo to the Williamson County Expo Center in Taylor or use equestrian facilities at the new Garey Park on FM 2243 in Georgetown.
Chris Mattice, captain of the Posse’s officer board, told council members Tuesday that moving to Taylor would not work as there is already a rodeo that uses the county center. Mattice also said that while the facilities at Garey Park are impressive, they would not be suitable grounds for a rodeo nor would there be enough parking.
“At this point, these options are not viable for us,” Mattice said.
The council’s agenda for Tuesday’s meeting did not include an item related to the rodeo arena, and council members did not discuss the matter.
Council reserves time at the end of meetings for residents to speak on topics of their choosing. However, procedural rules tell council members to comment only on items included on the meeting’s agenda.
City Manager David Morgan told rodeo supporters in attendance that he appreciated and understood their comments. Morgan said San Gabriel Park’s 2015 master plan update was developed with input from residents, and the city hosted public meetings prior to the plan’s adoption to gather opinions.
This summer, crews wrapped up the first phase of the park’s plan, which included adding traffic-calming measures, pavilions, restrooms, parking, a trailhead and entry monuments with signage.
The council approved $3.6 million in funding in May toward the park’s second phase of expansion, which will include additional parking improvements, new pavilions and other facilities. The second phase of construction, which is now underway and expected to finish in June 2019, also includes connecting a new walking trail between the park and the Katy Crossing neighborhood.
The start date of the park’s third expansion phase, including the arena’s removal, is still to be decided.