The Hermiston City Council tackled several remaining issues regarding Eastern Oregon Trade & Event Center (EOTEC) Monday night by approving three leases which now must be approved by the county.
The meeting was held at EOTEC. The council first approved a lease for the mercantile building proposed for the Farm-City Pro Rodeo area of EOTEC. The lease agreement calls for the rodeo pay $500 rent annually, pay all utilities and taxes on the property, and for the rodeo to build the building at their own expense, estimated at $500,000.
The lease agreement gives Farm-City year-round use of the mercantile, although the EOTEC board can request use of the building for other events.
The council voted 6-1 in favor of the lease, with Councilor Doug Primmer voting no, stating he objected to the low rental payment of $500.
The council then voted 7-0 to sign the lease for the rodeo arena for a 50-year period. The rodeo will pay $10,000 rent each year, but with credit for capital improvements paid for by the rodeo board. Farm-City will also pay all utilities for the week of usage. The rodeo board has also agreed to pay for additional bleachers and the installation of lights.
One point of discussion revolved around the Farm-City board’s request that no competing events would be held at the rodeo grounds 60 or 90 days prior to the rodeo and 30 days after. Those windows of time were put in for two reasons – to give the rodeo the time it needs to prepare the grounds for the August rodeo, and to make sure events won’t be held that might take away from the crowd size that pays to watch the rodeo. If a major event is held too close to the rodeo, people may choose to spend their money at that event rather than the Farm-City Pro Rodeo.
Councilor John Kirwan said 90 days prior is too long and would restrict EOTEC from attracting other events that would bring in revenue. Farm-City Board member Dennis Barnett said the time restrictions area also in place to protect sponsors’ investments. He said major sponsors shell out large sums and could decide to withdraw their support if they feel the rodeo is attracting fewer attendees. Barnett said the rodeo board has no intention of trying to restrict EOTEC’s ability to market the facility and make revenue.
“We want EOTEC to be successful,” he said. He added that the rodeo board would likely approve most non-rodeo events so long as the board has the needed time to get the arena ready for the rodeo, which he said takes 30-45 days in advance.
There are also several escape clauses in the lease agreement if the city ever felt the rodeo was being unreasonable. And, he added, the lease is similar to the agreement between the city and the rodeo for the past 30 years.
The council approved the lease with a 7-0 vote after settling on a 60-day window of time prior to the event and 30 days after.
The final lease agreement signed Monday night was for a 50-year lease of the fairgrounds. That, too, will include a $10,000 annual rent payment with the fair getting credit for capital improvements paid for by the fair. The fair will also pay for all utilities and janitorial work during the time they use the grounds. And, like the rodeo arena, it calls for a no competing events held at the grounds 60 days prior to the fair and 30 days after.
Fair board member Dan Dorran said sponsors pay big money to support the fair and expect big crowds. Hermiston Mayor Dave Drotzmann said the council has to make sure the city is able to attract enough big events to make money.
“When we limit our ability to make revenue, that’s a legitimate concern,” he said. “We need to make sure the taxpayers are respected.”
The council voted 6-1 in favor of signing the lease, with Kirwan voting no. Kirwan believes the clause prohibiting events immediately before and after the event is too restrictive.
The leases now must be signed by the Umatilla County Commissioners.