By Beth Dodd:
Ground work for the Ute Pass Saddle Club has begun near the southwest corner of US Hwy 24 and CO Hwy 67 in Divide. The new event facility will eventually include a 6,000 sq. ft. multipurpose building, large outdoor and indoor arenas, horse trailer parking, dry camping and even an amphitheater. When finished, the new events center will be available for many different kinds of activities, not just equestrian events. “There have been a lot of hurdles and hoops to jump through and we’re finally seeing something tangible,” said Ute Pass Saddle Club President Tay Jeffords. The project has been eight years in the making.
At present, the Ute Pass Saddle Club, formerly the Woodland Park Saddle Club, uses an outdoor arena in Woodland Park on US Hwy 24 between Walmart and Safeway. Before that, the group had used Bergstrom Arena and the adjacent Woodland Park Saddle Club in the center of downtown Woodland Park from 1947 until 2006.
The Saddle Club sold Bergstrom Arena to the Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority in 2004 in exchange for a 23 acre parcel of land east of Safeway and $2 million. The old saddle club and rodeo arena were removed in 2008 to make way for the planned new Woodland Station. Retail shops, a hotel, and more are now in the works for the site.
The 40 acre Divide property was purchased by the Saddle Club in 2012 from rancher Bob Maytag and local businessman Pete Kuyper. It is hoped that after the new facility is completed the group can bring PRCA rodeo back to the area. The Ute Trail Stampede was the highlight of Woodland Park’s summer for decades and was last held in 2006.
The initial phase of construction of the Saddle Club’s new home in Divide, which began in early August, will include building the main driveway into the site and grading to create a pad for the construction of the arenas. Electric and water will be extended to the site as well.
The first phase of the project will also include alterations to CO Hwy 67. A deceleration lane will be added to help people enter the facilities without blocking traffic on the highway. The Saddle Club has a sixty day window to finish the deceleration lane.
A possible change in the speed limit on that section of the road from 55 mph to 45 mph is being considered, as well as the construction of an acceleration lane for Weaverville Road across the street. However, these changes would be decided upon by CDOT and are not included in the Saddle Club project. IREA has power poles and CenturyLink has underground cables near the Saddle Club’s building site. These will be moved across the street to the east side of CO Hwy 67. The communications line will be protected from any possible construction damage in its new location, while the power poles will be out of the way of people visiting the event center.
The Saddle Club is selling their Woodland Park property to help pay for development of their new location in Divide. And although financing for the first phase of the project is complete, future development will depend on the timing of the sale. The Saddle’s Club’s goal is to have the new facilities paid for and have operating capital left in the bank. “We’re not going to build anything we can’t pay for,” said Jeffords, who hopes that the first structure, the outdoor arena, will be ready for gymkhana and barrel racing events by the summer of 2016. In the meanwhile, the club will continue using its Woodland Park location until a buyer is found for it.