FARM II has a new name and a new location.
At a Pendleton City Council workshop Tuesday, Blue Mountain Community College President Cam Preus said the indoor rodeo arena/agricultural classroom space will be renamed the Blue Mountain Regional Training Center to reflect the project’s new partnership with the InterMountain Education Service District.
The training center will also switch its proposed site away from the northwest section of the Round-Up grounds where the pavilion and Fallen Field are to the 1800 block of Southwest Byers Avenue west of the grounds; a cluster of properties mostly controlled by the Round-Up Association and the city of Pendleton.
Mayor John Turner said the council will consider transferring all of its land along Byers to the Round-Up at its Oct. 16 meeting, paving the way for the rodeo organization to turn around and lease the collection of properties to BMCC.
Although no money would change hands, Turner, a former BMCC president, said city could directly benefit from this deal.
The city has explored the idea of building a hotel at the Pendleton Convention Center and Turner said a hotelier is interested in developing a facility.
If a developer takes the plunge, the new hotel could extend into the parking lot owned by Happy Canyon next door, cutting down on the number of spaces. The new parking that would accompany the training center may alleviate those concerns.
Additionally, the training center’s 1,035-seat arena would expect to host events from November through April, a period of time when Pendleton’s tourism industry typically slows down.
Preus said the college rodeo teams already use the pavilion for practice, but the training center would offer a permanent home for a pair of teams that have won championships and consistently appear in national rankings.
The 87,092-square-foot building will also include classroom and lab space for the college’s agriculture program. In addition to college students, the inclusion of the IMESD means the project will now also serve local high school students.
Preus said BMCC intends for the facility to be a “magnet” for students interested in agriculture
“(It’s) not just horses and how to feed them, but all aspects of the agriculture industry,” she said.
Tim Smith, the Round-Up grounds director and the city’s water superintendent, said the Round-Up sees the training center as an asset to the sport of rodeo.
“We need to support rodeo,” he said. “Not just here, but everywhere. The numbers are dwindling just like high school football.”
Smith said the Round-Up would have exclusive access to the training center during Round-Up week, the new location allowing the association to create space for parking and animal pens without sacrificing the pavilion or parking space at Fallen Field.
Smith said building the training center will require the city and the association to vacate the 1800 block of Byers, the northern section of Southwest 18th Street, and an 18th Street strip mall. The only remaining occupant of the strip mall is the Frontier Tavern, which will leave the property at the end of February, according to Smith.
One of the biggest remaining hurdles for the training center is finding funding for the project, which is estimated to cost $12.5 million.
The state has already committed $5 million toward the training center, with Pendleton, Umatilla County, and the Port of Umatilla chipping in an additional $150,000 each.
Turner said BMCC plans to make up the difference by making another ask to the state and possibly a local fundraising effort.
Over the years, the city has considered using the land it owns along Byers, which is sometimes referred to as the G2 properties, for housing or a hotel.
If the training center project falls apart for any reason, Turner said all the land would either revert to the city or the Round-Up Association.
Contact Antonio Sierra at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0836.