Event Center Seed Planted

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The $21 million Payson Event Center project took a major step forward when the developer paid the town $30,000 required under a memo of understanding.

Bruce Berres, president of Valley-based Hospitality Support Group (HSG) presented the check to the town, the first money to be invested in the project.

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Improvements to the Payson Event Center will benefit equestrian events such as gymkhanas.

"The reason we required (the payment) is because once we start to (negotiate) this development agreement, we will need to use consultants to help us with the final agreement, and that costs money," Town Manager Fred Carpenter said.

As originally presented by HSG in August, key elements of the project included:

  • A 150-room hotel with an indoor pool, fitness center, game area, and an area dedicated to Payson history.
  • A 1,000-seat amphitheater that would be home to concert series and other musical events.
  • A 7,000-square-foot conference center that includes a grand ballroom and is capable of handling meetings of up to 500 people.
  • A cowboy-themed steakhouse restaurant and saloon.
  • A cover for the existing rodeo facility.

Several months later, HSG announced an upgrade to the original concept -- enclosing the rodeo facility for year-round use.

"The original plan was to just cover the facility," Berres said. "Now we feel the best concept is to create a larger, enclosed facility."

The rodeo arena would be ringed by six to eight rows of permanent seats, with a multi-use concourse around the perimeter. The arena could also accommodate bleachers, increasing the seating capacity to 12,000 for rodeos and other spectator events.

The new design also includes heating and cooling, and makes the arena larger, which according to Berres, will make the facility more attractive to rodeo officials and participants.

When the Tonto Apaches opted not to participate in the project late last year, HSG asked for an extension on the memo of understanding to allow time to find an investor. The company had until July 29 to come up with the money.

"We delivered $30,000 to the city last week, and starting next week we will start the process of the formal development agreement," Berres said. "When that's done, it looks like we will announce a hotel operator."

Berres is now convinced the complex will be built.

"Absolutely," he said. "It's a great concept and it's extremely exciting."

The two-level restaurant will have a Western theme.

"We're going to call the restaurant 1884," Berres said. "That's the first year of the rodeo."

Part of the restaurant's Wild West theme will include Payson history.

The ultimate key to the success of the complex is group business, and Berres believes the new facility will be a big hit among group planners.

"Make no mistake, a hotel of this size really has to target group business to be successful on a year-round basis," he said. "And when it's all said and done, this will be the largest meeting facility in this portion of the state."

"We're targeting about 7,000 square feet in a configuration that is expandable," Berres said.

Water for the project was allocated five years ago according to Public Works Director Buzz Walker.

"The council made a decision years ago when they were talking about leasing that out for development that they would set the limits on water use at that property," Walker said.

At Thursday's council meeting, the $30,000 was added to the 2005-2006 fiscal year budget.

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