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Events center idea moves towards sports tourism

SHOW LOW — The possibility of developing a convention center in Show Low has been on the drawing board for several years. But it’s no small endeavor to build, maintain and promote a venue, and the council is taking the issue seriously.

Last Tuesday, Nov. 5, Show Low City Manager Ed Muder and Business Development Coordinator, Steve North, recommended the city council approve a $35,000 contract with Sports Facilities Advisory (SFA), LLC. The contract is to conduct a feasibility study for a proposed convention/events center and youth sports facility in Show Low.

The council voted three to two in favor of moving forward with the next study phase.

In order to have enough information to make the right decision, the Show Low City Council seems determined to do its homework in the form of feasibility studies.

Doing the homework

Whether the driving force is entertainment, tourism, sports or business, the size, the location and the price has to be just right for a convention center to be successful.

In 2016-18 Hunden Strategic Partners completed a two-part study which explored the overall feasibility of building a convention center in Show Low and a market analysis. They also looked into design and funding options as well as potential site locations.

Hunden’s initial study findings reported that “... the local event demand was starving for quality spaces for meetings, sports, banquets, public events, and conferences.” In addition, the consultants confirmed that “events centers were not moneymakers, but economic investment vehicles.”

Darius Larson/The Independent 

Show Low City Hall

In November 2018, the City of Show Low contracted with SFA, an expert in the development of sports tourism facilities, for a more focused feasibility study in which SFA incorporated data provided in Hunden’s studies.

The focus has shifted to drill down on youth sports and sports tourism such as tournament play and even a high altitude sports training center. “This is where SFA comes in,” says North. “That’s what they specialize in.”

Laura Singleton/The Independent  

Business Development Coordinator Steve North recommends approval of a $35,000 contract with Sports Facilities Advisory (SFA), LLC. The new contract, approved by the council, will further study the feasibility of a building a convention/events center for youth sports, high altitude training and sports tourism in Show Low.

“The sports tourism industry is very exciting,” North told the council in 2018. “Research shows that youth and amateur sports is the fastest-growing segment of the sports tourism industry with $15 billion spent annually in the US,” he added.

Phase Two gets approval

The primary goal of phase two of the Sports Facilities Advisory study will incorporate conclusions from the phase one study with more specific sports tourism data.

It will include “detailed financial pro forma to fully analyze opportunity and ‘right size’ facility, create an ideal facility layout and business model, forecast economic impact of tournaments/events hosted at the facility, and complete a Project and Business Overview Report for the ideal facility and business model … ” states the staff summary report presented during last Tuesday’s council meeting.

“Will such a facility generate activity in Show Low and surrounding communities in the off-season is another important consideration,” says North. “That’s what’s interesting; this study will also try to answer that question.” There are opportunities for basketball, volleyball and other fall and winter activities between January and May.

“Many hotels are not at capacity during those months but this could help them get there,” North points out.

The considerations are significant, agreed the council. Mitigating factors are the distance and drive time from metro areas. Winter weather and overall road conditions are also important to study since most visitors are expected to drive to the area versus flying into a smaller, regional airport.

Council members asked North several questions and expressed a concern that there was no SFA representative in attendance at the meeting.

“Even if we had the money to build an events center,” asked councilman Gene Kelley, “what if there is a downturn in our economy? It just doesn’t compute for me.”

“We did a study of similar convention centers in this part of the country with comparable size, weather, economy, etc,” stated councilman Rennie Crittenden. “Were they profitable and where is that information?”

North explained that the initial studies did, in fact, provide comparable facilities and he has that information. However, that was earlier on when the focus was not sports tourism. Since the focus has shifted, that data is not as applicable.

Prescott, northern Indiana and other cold-climate places have successful facilities, although they do occasionally cancel events due to inclement weather said City Manager Ed Muder.

“We can put it to bed with this study or we can go further in our research,” assured Show Low Mayor Daryl Seymore. “The amount of money that people are spending to help their children excel in sports and the revenue that it brings to the community is important. There are opportunities that we can capture that we aren’t,” he added.

Funding the studies

The studies have been partially funded by the City of Show Low, a grant from Rural Business Development of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and even potential project partners who committed $10,000 towards one of the 2018 studies.

Navajo County has committed $5,000 to towards the $35,000 price tag on the latest study.

“This is the last study we are going to do to find out if a convention/events center and youth sports facility is feasible,” said Muder.

Corrine Ruiz The Independent  

Claire Prado, 5, visiting from Peoria, rides the new featured double zip line, installed and completed about 2 weeks ago, at the playground area near the Little League Field in Show Low City Park. The double zip line includes a safety seat for little ones. Older youth and adults can also enjoy riding the zip line. Prado was at the city park Saturday with grandfather, Gordon Terracina, resident of Show Low, enjoying the beautiful weather. The playground is complete with the exception of the netting next to the zipline to keep people off the grass that has been replanted until the grass starts to grow.

Work continues on Concho Community Center

CONCHO – From Highway 61, the work progressing on the new Concho Community Center is very visible. The manufactured units have been put together, and every week, it begins to look more and more like how the Concho Community Action Network (ConchoCAN!) envisioned it to be.

ConchoCAN!, an organization formed by Concho residents in 2003, has always had a community center as one of their primary goals. In 2004, ConchoCAN! gained their 501c3 status to help with the funding and organization needed to achieve this goal. At one time, a center was located near the Concho Post Office, but having their own building where they could house community events and programs was always the plan.

Photo by Peter Aleshire 

The modular buildings that make up the Mellon Community Center in Concho Valley used to be part of a ski lodge at Lake Tahoe.

The building, located at 97 Frontage Road, was originally the central four pieces of an old ski lodge in Lake Tahoe. Modular Solutions, who owned the ski lodge buildings, sold them to ConchoCAN! for just $7,500 each. Proceeds from the sale of a house donated by the Mellon family allowed for the purchase and delivery and the land it sits on. The community center was named the Mellon Community Center in honor of the family’s tremendous donation. Being the center units of the eight-section lodge, however, this means that outer walls on each end still need to be completed. ConchoCAN! board member Leon Buttler hopes to have the walls done in “about two weeks.”

Photo by Peter Aleshire 

A volunteer at work inside the community center building.

There are big plans for the layout of the 3,068 square foot building as construction is completed. There will be a front lobby area where guests will be greeted by an office staff member. Restrooms will be located on either side of this lobby. Beyond the lobby area will be a large, open room for events. This “assembly room” is expected to be able to hold up to 150 people. On the right side of the building, Buttler hopes to see a computer lab go in. Local resident Andy Wilhelm has already volunteered to donate his time to set up and network donated computers once the center is far enough along to install them. On the left side of the building, there will be a commercial kitchen and a private room for classes or conferences, or even for just students to use to study in.

Billie Bell (left) along with Susan Buttler (right) present Eileen Detzel $50 a gift certificate from Arizona Acupuncture & Neurofeedback Center. Detzel created the winning design for the logo for the community center.

With funds slowly being depleted, ConchoCAN! has applied for a Community Development Block Grant through Apache County to help with the cost of building the kitchen for the center and other expenses.

“The whole concept from the get-go has been volunteerism,” Buttler said. Volunteers, who have donated money and countless hours to the project have been vital to the progress made on the Mellon Community Center. ConchoCAN! has been grateful for the outpouring of support, including that of one family who donated $1,000 anonymously to the center. To thank donors and volunteers alike, ConchoCAN! erected a sign out front, naming every organization and person that has helped along the way. “Every time somebody donated, we would come out here and add their name to the sign,” Butter said with a smile. The organization has been thrilled to add to that list of names as the center progresses.

Photo by Peter Aleshire/  

Volunteer John Bell works on digging a trench around the modular buildings of the Mellon Community Center.

“There’s still a lot here left to do,” Buttler said of the center. Plumbing, electrical and finish work all need to be completed, and with the recent storm activity, they discovered that they will also need the help of an experienced roofer for some new found leaks. “We are in desperate need of volunteers,” he said.

To that end, on Tuesday, November 12, ConchoCAN! is holding a “Volunteer Roundup” at the center starting at 9 a.m. There will be generators and equipment on site, and the goal for the day will be to work on construction and finishing some digging for the heavy-duty skirting that is going in around the building that will keep out critters and further insulate the center from cold weather.

Eventually, when the building has been completed, the Mellon Community Center will serve the community in multiple ways, such as for classes on resume writing and other job skills, after school programs, senior luncheons, computer classes, and even community movie nights. There will even be bingo nights in their future, thanks to the efforts of Gail Golden, a ConchoCAN! board member who helped to secure a bingo license from the state.

Asked when he expects the center to be officially open, Buttler said: “We have a very loose target date of a Valentine’s Dance.”

Locals occasionally stop by to check out the new building, and more residents are becoming curious about the Mellon Community center. During an on-site interview with the Independent, Buttler had to take a moment to address one such neighbor who drove by to ask questions.

“People are getting excited,” Buttler said. “We have a Concho Connection newsletter that comes out bi-monthly and for the last six months I have been writing articles to muster up support.”

“[It’s] one step at a time, but we’ve taken a big step to get it here,” he said proudly.

Amber Shepard is an local journalist covering municipal governments and other Apache County topics.

Apache County seeks to boost training of detention officers

APACHE COUNTY — Apache County faces at least three lawsuits alleging poor treatment of prisoners in the county jail.

So maybe we ought to offer detention officers a little more training – and overhaul the manual while we’re at it, suggested Jail Commander Michael Cirivello at last week’s board of supervisor’s meeting.

As the first step, Cirivello asked the supervisors to convert a Detention Officer I position into a Detention Officer III position – a roughly $3,500 hit to the budget. But this will allow the county to hire a detention officer with about 20 years experience, including lots of expertise in training and policy.

“We are currently fighting three lawsuits filed against the jail by inmates that is costing much more to defend than the $3,500,” he wrote in the board packet requesting the upgrade.

“After his initial training in this facility, he will be rewriting our policy and training manuals and ensuring that we stay current on these topics from a legal standpoint and our training matches our policies. This will allow the lawyers to get cases dismissed without having to defend our current policies and training manuals.”

He noted that the county can’t fill its open positions, so he has money available in the budget to hire a more experienced officer. “With the constant open positions in the jail the additional monies are available in the budget.”

One of the claims filed against the county involves a $10.5-million claim from a pregnant inmate who says poor treatment resulted in the birth of her baby in a squad car, allegedly resulting in brain damage to the infant.

Jocelyn Crystal Baca, 20, of Springerville was arrested on drug charges in January of 2017. She claims male officers constantly came into the room when she was half naked during exams. She also says the county jail nurse delayed providing treatment or transferring her to the hospital although she was “writhing in pain.”

On the way to the hospital, Baca gave birth to the baby in the squad car. Because she was handcuffed, the baby fell to the floor of the car, according to her complaint.

The baby was ultimately airlifted to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix and diagnosed with a stage 4 brain bleed, leading to brain damage, according to Baca’s complaint. She claims violation of her rights, negligence and gross neglect.

The supervisors approved the reclassification of the detention officer position as part of the consent agenda.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at paleshire@payson.com

Residents request zoning change to keep out manufactured homes

EAGAR — Residents of the Hillcrest subdivision in Eagar met before the town council on Nov. 5 to appeal to the council for another vote on their re-zoning petition.

A tie vote of 2-2 by the Planning and Zoning committee left their application denied. The motion was not recommended by the commission for review by the town council, so the residents then petitioned the town council directly to break the tie vote and rezone their subdivision from a R1-10 to a R1-10R, effectively barring any more manufactured homes or “tiny” homes from being built in the community.

“It’s within their rights and town code that they can appeal decisions made by the commission,” the town Planning and Zoning administrator, Jeremiah Loyd, said. “So, they chose to proceed in that route.”

The petitioner, Chris Compton, owns 10 parcels in the subdivision, and he was joined by almost all of the six neighbors who also signed on to the petition. Two other parcel owners came to oppose the measure and urge the council to consider their rights in the matter.

“Our concern was with preserving the character of the neighborhood and maintaining long term property values. There are currently six houses in the proposed rezoning area. Each house is a custom, site-built home,” Compton said as he addressed the town council. “We feel that by mixing manufactured homes with site-built homes, it would undermine the character of the neighborhood and the property values.” Compton went on to explain that he and his neighbors understood that the subdivision’s ‘Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions’ (CC&R’s) meant that no manufactured home could come into their subdivision, and that all homes would be required to be site built. They claimed that the CC&R’s were “legally ambiguous” and that, without rezoning, rewording and then enforcing a new revision of the Hillcrest CC&R’s would “impose undue legal processes” that would require them to enforce the rules parcel by parcel using legal action in the future.

“We therefore respectfully appeal to the council to break the tie vote of the planning and zoning commission to approve our rezoning application,” Compton said to the council.

Gerald Kepler, with his mother-in-law Nadene, also live in the Hillcrest subdivision and spoke to the council on their concerns on the deed restrictions. Concerns included that nearby manufactured homes would negatively impact their property’s value.

David Allen, who owns two parcels in the Hillcrest subdivision, spoke to oppose any action by the council to support rezoning.

“They may have cause against a realtor for telling them incorrect information, but the information hasn’t changed since 1987,” Allen said of the original CC&R rules for the subdivision. “I purchased two lots in Hillcrest a little over a year ago, with the intention of developing that at some point, and knowing that I could do a modular home if I chose to. With the weather and everything here, that might be easier to bring in a home rather than construct it from the ground up. I haven’t made that decision yet, but as a property owner, I feel like I purchased it based on that, and nothing has changed. Why would my property rights as an owner be diminished? Our rights are being taken away. I just suggest to the council that this is a restriction of our rights.”

Nancy Golightly also spoke to the council, bringing her expertise as a realtor to the discussion.

“‘All buildings shall be of new construction and shall be constructed or assembled on the lot’,” Golightly said, reading off the original Hillcrest CC&R’s, dated November 23, 1976. “I’ve talked to three attorneys, two prior to the planning and zoning meeting, and I even called a hotline for realtors… ‘assembled on lot’ is the definition of a manufactured or modular home. ‘Assembled on lot’ is delivered to the lot. It states also in here that if 60% of the owners of the subdivision in Hillcrest want to make any other changes, they can do so once they have 60% of owners. Only 53% of are owners are on the petition that was submitted to planning and zoning.” Golightly pointed out that no realtors came with any of the property owners and called the fact that the people were misled by their relators when they bought the properties “tragic.”

Denise Graves, a retired x-ray technician from New York bought property in the subdivision in the mid 1990’s and made plans to put a manufactured home on the lot this year.

“This is my dream,” Graves said. “This is what I want. I want peace and quiet. All I’ve ever known is New York. I love it. It’s beautiful here!” she said of the area. It was shortly after she arrived in Eagar and began to plan out her property that the issue was formally raised to rezone the subdivision.

“I’ve been in Eagar since March,” Graves said in a telephone interview. “I was on the site, visiting with the surveyor and everything, and people were coming up and asking, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m going to have a manufactured home on the property.’ Nobody seemed like they were bothered by it. The next thing I know, I got a letter from the town hall saying that the people got together and wanted to change the zoning rules and regulations. I couldn’t believe it. I never knew from the time I bought the property that it would be a problem.”

“I don’t understand the thinking that my manufactured home is going to take away from a stick-built home,” Graves said before the town council. “From my understanding, when they do the evaluation, you don’t evaluate stick built with a manufactured home. I’m not putting a shack on my property. I planned this for a long time. I don’t understand how anyone could think that my manufactured home is going to take away from their value. Live and let live. That’s my motto.”

As there has already been a manufactured home in the Hillcrest subdivision since at least 2007, the timing of the petition for rezoning leave some wondering. As a minority, (Graves is African-American) and coming from another state, the question leaves her and others feeling uneasy about the situation. “I never once felt it was about the manufactured home. I always felt that it was about what was going into the home,” Graves said in the interview. “And that’s me.”

Do manufactured homes affect property values?

The Independent reached out to professionals to clarify some facts, namely Chief Appraiser for Apache County, Barbara Gomez, and Jeff Brewer of Brewer Real Estate Appraisals, LLC, for more information on how a manufactured home could impact property values and taxes.

When asked if a manufactured home moving into a neighborhood of site-built homes would impact appraisals for tax purposes, Barabara Gomez said: “Not for tax purposes. Generally, in Apache County, because most of our areas are kind of hodge-podge anyway, it doesn’t really to matter. It’s not going to really effect it.” A quality manufactured home should not have a negative impact upon the taxes collected in a community, she confirmed.

Jeff Brewer, who has over 40 years experience as an appraiser, was asked if a manufactured home would harm a neighboring site-built home in resale value. “I’ve answered this many times,” Brewer said, chuckling. “I could say yes and I could say no.” In his professional experience, he has seen instances where well-built manufactured homes even rival older, site-built homes that were previously in the neighborhood. However, he would definitely not advise putting a cheap manufactured home next door to a $300,000 house, for instance. Such extreme cases of mismatched value would be more likely to have a negative effect on the site-built homeowner’s property. Each case would depend upon the site-built and manufactured homes in question.

Buyers from California are driving the market, which is also changing a lot of notions on the value of homes. “Buyers now do not care,” Brewer said. “It’s a totally different buyer [today].” Old stigmas, such as a home located near a cemetery or homes surrounded by manufactured homes don’t seem to phase new home buyers as it did previously. With better building regulations and finishes, manufactured homes can hold their own if they are built for quality.

For appraisal purposes, any manufactured home of quality should have little impact on neighboring site-built properties, as manufactured homes cannot be used as a comparable to site-built homes in all but the most extreme cases.

After all the discussion was over at the council meeting, the measure was tabled. The mayor, Bryce Hamblin, Councilman Phelps, and Councilman Hadlock were not present during the town council meeting, and with limited numbers left on the council, the vote was delayed until the following town council meeting scheduled for December when more members could be present.

Amber Shepard is an local journalist covering municipal governments and other Apache County topics.