It truly has become Barry Cardinael's field of dreams, and within a few short months, those dreams will become reality when the town's spring PRCA rodeo in May kicks off the opening of the new rodeo grounds.
Cardinael has been working for nearly two years now, laying the groundwork and organizing the infrastructure to move the town's rodeo center from its site at Rumsey Park to the town's 36-acre parcel in south Payson.
Despite roadblocks, unrealized goals, contract extensions and intense public scrutiny, Cardinael said the new arena is the result of a drastically improved plan.
"What you have today, with the present layout, is much broader and more detailed than the original plan, which was launched in the fall of 1996," he said.
"All in all, when you consider the amount of work that's been done out here, I believe that we've come a long way in a short time."
In the past few years, the acreage just west of the Tonto Apache Reservation has been cleared of the dense brush. Underground utilities have been installed to accommodate the arena's present and future needs, and eventually, a multi-event center. Plans have been drawn up, discarded, revised and redrawn to allow for a state-of-the-art, cowboy-friendly rodeo arena.
"If there's a tongue-in-cheek title to be given to the project, it would be the Volunteer Arena," he said. "It was a good and noble work that was done here that was largely built by the community. Most of the money, manpower, machinery and materials came from the community directly. About 75 percent of the financial needs were provided by the community, and probably 85 percent of the labor."
With only a few months to go before the May Doin's at the arena, Cardinael is working feverishly these days to wrap up construction of the ticket booth and entrance, and the tribute to the volunteers who helped make it all possible.
It's been an endless process for Cardinael, he said, one that he now considers to be the Town of Payson's "marathon project."
"We've just gotten to first base," he said. "We've finally gotten to the place where we can start looking toward second base."
Once the rodeo grounds are open, town staff will still have a lot of work to do, Cardinael said.
"There will be an immediate need for additional parking, covered seating, an announcer's stand and, eventually, modern bathrooms," he said. "There's still much work to be done."