New arena in Sanpete County, Utah getting ready to host rodeos, concerts, races, equestrian tours
By Christian Probasco
For the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area
MT. PLEASANT—A new event center in Sanpete County passed an important milestone in August with a major bull riding exhibition.
Local officials are ready to expand the center’s facilities so they will be able to handle any arena-based event that any sports organization can steer their way.
During the well-attended Cowboy Expo. and “Bull Riding Blowout” held at the ConToy Arena on Aug. 14, professional riders tried to stay on top of ill-tempered critters provided by the newly formed Western States Bucking Bull Association.
`The purpose of the event was to demonstrate how well the association bulls could buck, jump, spin and otherwise misbehave to potential buyers, rodeo talent scouts and the world at large. The objective was achieved, with riders being flung to every corner of the arena, and in one case being rolled over by a bull that weighed as much as a compact car. Only three participants made it to the eight second mark. Announcer Wacey Allred complained that it was “raining cowboys.”
City councilman Reed Thomas, who organized the event and has raised cattle for decades, was himself surprised by the bulls’ uncouth behavior.
“Those really were some rank bulls,” he marveled weeks after the show.
Outside of expositions, the arena is being utilized by several local organizations. Wasatch Academy, a boarding school in Mt. Pleasant, leases it for its equestrian program. A drug treatment facility uses it for equestrian therapy. The city holds regular bull riding competitions in the arena, which also hosts clinics on horse riding and roping.
As for major events, Thomas and other arena supporters say they expect the 1.2 acre arena—the largest public building in Sanpete County—to play host to more bull riding events and rodeos, concerts, tractor pulls, motorcycle races, mud bog races and monster truck shows.
However, they say to fully realize their vision for the arena, its facilities will have to be expanded.
“The next major hurdle will be building more horse stalls,” says Steve Clark, former chairman of Arapeen Community Advisors, who oversaw construction of the center.
The arena currently has 20 stalls for use by Wasatch Academy. The plan for the near future is to build about 100 outdoor stalls and then start work on covered stalls.
City and county officials say that in addition to supporting rodeos, the new stalls could be utilized by county residents who would like to own horses but who currently don’t have any place to keep them.
The city also wants to install RV and trailer hookups near the arena.
“A lot of folks who attend events such as rodeos and bull rides bring their own self-contained trailers,” says Thomas, who was also a board member of Arapeen Advisors. “Putting in hookups would allow them to stay close to their animals.”
Further in the future, Clark and Thomas hope to construct an outdoor arena.
City Councilman Monte Bona, who secured grants and loans for the arena’s construction says the center is the first phase of a “heritage park” which will eventually include a race track, hiking trail, working pioneer farm and even a replica pioneer village.
If the past is a guide, much of the work of constructing the stalls and the hookups, and then building the heritage park, will be done by volunteers, without whom the arena could not have been completed.
“This has been a grassroots effort from the beginning,” says Bona.
Dozens of locals, including inmates from the county prison, volunteered thousands of hours of work to pour cement, spread the dirt floor, move the stands, install the pens, raise the stalls, provide entertainment during the early events and otherwise help out any way they could.
Much of the management work was provided on a volunteer basis as well. The board members of Arapeen Community Advisors worked without a salary to see the project through.
Mt. Pleasant donated 100 acres of land in its industrial park for the arena and the future heritage park. The arena was completed with a $125,000 donation from the ConToy Family Memorial Trust, established by former Sanpete residents Connie and Toy Hansen before they passed away. Among other items, the donation paid for heaters, a sound system and a new tractor.
The ConToy Trust is also donating $5,000 per year for handicapped youth programs to be held at the arena. The money already allowed for a special rodeo in May attended by dozens of children who learned to rope and ride, square dance and sing cowboy songs.
Branch and Dinah Cox of Fairview donated a groomer to keep the arena floor supple and level. Thomas says the arena dirt is some of the finest and softest soil a cowboy could hope to be pitched into.
Most recently, the Skyline Mine in Carbon County has donated several lengths of pipe, and $500 to complete the cattle pens on the south side of the arena, at the behest of Skyline Director Wes Sorenson who lives in nearby Spring City. The pipe is much heavier than the gauge commonly used in such enclosures and will stand up to abuse by the strongest and meanest of bulls. In fact, the pens could probably contain angry elephants.
For the near future, Thomas says he expects to see another equestrian training program started sometime over the winter. He is also getting the arena on the statewide circuit for ranch roping, team sorting, team penning, bull riding, barrel racing and mounted shooting competitions.
Beginning in December, the arena will host a monthly jackpot team roping competition. In March a team roping school with a PRCA instructor will open at the arena.
The arena will also host a Christmas craft fair and general auction in December, a statewide archery contest in February and a statewide cow cutting competition next April.
Thomas is enthusiastic about a map of local horse trails the county’s Department of Economic Development and Travel and Heritage Council are putting together. The map should be ready by spring. It’s Thomas’s hope that equestrian tour businesses will base their operations out of the facilities at the arena.
The ConToy Arena is located at 955 W. 1000 South in Mt. Pleasant. For more information on the arena and upcoming events, call (435) 427-0561 or go to http://sanpitcharena.com/.
For more information on the Sanpete County Travel and Heritage Council in Manti, call 435-835-6877 or 1-800-281-4346 or go to www.sanpete.com/pages/travel.
Captions for accompanying photos:
Photographs by Christian Probasco
ConToy Arena: The ConToy Arena in Mt. Pleasant, Utah held its first major event—a bull riding exhibition—in August of 2010. The arena has several competitions scheduled for winter and spring, including bull riding, archery team roping and cow cutting. The next step for the center’s expansion will be the addition of horse stalls and RV hookups.
Wes Sorensen and Reed Thomas: Skyline Mine Director Wes Sorensen of Spring City (redhead) and Mt. Pleasant City Councilman Reed Thomas (white striped shirt) inspect new cattle pens being constructed for the ConToy Arena in Mt. Pleasant, Utah on Thursday, Sept. 16. The project is being completed by local volunteers with heavy duty pipe donated by Sorensen and Skyline Mine, in Carbon County. Thomas said the pens, which will stand up to “the rankest of bulls” will make the arena more inviting to bull riding associations and other organizations which might want to hold events at the arena.
Photographs by Ann Torrence (http://www.anntorrence.com/)
Cowboy Expo: Young cowboys got tossed, flipped, spun, flung and, in one case, rolled over, by rank bulls provided by the Western States Bucking Bull Association during the Cowboy Expo. at the ConToy Arena in August. Only three riders hung on for the qualifying eight seconds.