(Lander, Wyo.) – After five years of planning and preparation, the City of Lander announced today that the rodeo grounds relocation project will not move forward as funding from the state and federal governments has been taken off the table.
“It came as quite a surprise. Of course, I am very disappointed,” Mayor Mick Wolfe said in a news release. “Our City and community have put forth a great deal of resources on this project.”
Wyoming Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division Planning and Program Manager Christy Yaffa said with projections of rebuilding the rodeo grounds on a new site and development of additional hangar space topping more than $6 million, it was decided the project was no longer a priority.
The idea to accommodate additional hangars on the rodeo grounds site was identified in the 2008 master plan for Hunt Field Airport. WYDOT and the Federal Aviation Administration had allocated $2 million to purchase land for the rodeo grounds relocation. Yaffa said to date approximately $600,000 had been spent on environmental assessments on the various properties, as well as other planning.
“We and the FAA now do not have the projected funding for the project,” Yaffa said. She clarified that the remaining balance of the $2 million was still available to the city, but the funding to rebuild the rodeo grounds or develop the hangar space would not be available.
FAA spokesperson Allen Kenitzer said the decision was made by the state, not the FAA.
Wolfe in an interview said the city was made aware that the additional funding would not be available during a conference call last week with state and federal representatives.
“The FAA just said the runway and taxiway are the priorities,” he said.
Yaffa confirmed that the state would prefer to see the standards of the runway and taxiway improved, essentially increasing the size of aircraft the airport could accommodate, over additional hangar space. She said the master plan for Hunt Field has high estimates for the improvements, which include shifting the runway further away from the taxiway. While she couldn’t guarantee funding for the project, she said the state would be open to reviewing more mid-level improvement plans.
When asked what the future of the Lander airport is, Wolfe said he didn’t know. Yaffa said it would be at the city’s discretion to seek other funds for the rodeo grounds relocation project, but neither Wolfe nor Community Resource Coordinator Gary Michaud hinted at that as a possibility.
Through the last five years, the project has been the center of local controversy. Initially a replacement site near the Wyoming Life Resource Center and behind the Dillon subdivision was shot down by vocal residents.
After that site fell through, the city, and a committee of stakeholders, worked with Armstrong Consultants to find a new relocation site. After many public meetings, the city selected in September 2012 property off Highway 287 on the northwest end of town owned by the Shearer family as the preferred relocation site. An environmental assessment on the site was under way when the decision to halt the project was made.
“We knew this was going to be a controversial project when we began the process way back in 2008,” Michaud said in the news release. “We decided that it was in the best interest of our airport and community to try and work with these agencies instead of fight the relocation of the rodeo grounds. Unfortunately it just did not work out at this time.”
In the news release, the city thanked all of the volunteers and stakeholders who worked on the project.