Round-Up purchases neighboring Albertsons property

Pat Beard, left, gestures while giving a tour of the Round-Up Grounds to a group with Travel Pendleton on Monday. The Round-Up Association announced it has purchased the old Albertsons store across from the Round-Up Grounds.

Months of rumors were finally confirmed Monday: the Pendleton Round-Up Association has acquired the Albertsons property.

Located across Southwest Court Avenue from the Round-Up Grounds, the vacant grocery store and its accompanying parking lot will join a host of properties on Southwest 18th Street and Southwest Byers Avenue, to the east of the Round-Up Grounds.

“This acquisition marks a huge step for our organization,” Round-Up President Dave O’Neill said in a statement. “It is a welcome addition to our campus as we continue to experience success and the growth of our event.”

Round-Up Publicity Director Randy Thomas said the property has been on the rodeo association’s radar since the Albertsons building was vacated in 2014 and the property was put on the market.

“It’s a pretty obvious, strategic piece because it’s right across the street,” he said.

Thomas said the Round-Up is convening a facilities committee to determine how to use the Round-Up’s new properties. Potential projects like a complementary hotel for Pendleton Convention Center or the Blue Mountain Community College indoor rodeo arena would require the Round-Up to reorganize its campus, he said.

While a press release states the Round-Up “will provide future updates on their plans for the building as they become available,” a consent judgment between the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the association reached last year shows one of the possible options.

“The existing building will be remodeled and repurposed to contain exhibits related to the Pendleton Round-Up Rodeo,” states the judgment, which Umatilla County Circuit Court Judge Christopher Brauer signed Oct. 27. “The Pendleton Round-Up and Happy Canyon Hall of Fame museum is located across the street from this Property but does not have capacity to display larger items (i.e. wagons) exhibits. The repurposing of this Property will provide substantial public benefit by providing employment and education opportunities for the community as we as addressing one of the several large vacant commercial properties present in Pendleton.”

Thomas said a wagon museum is one of the ideas being considered, in addition to expanded retail space, but the association hasn’t committed to a concept yet.

In use since at least the 1920s, the property has been occupied by the Umatilla County road department and a farm equipment and supply store before the current facility was built in 1972. Pesticides, fertilizers and petroleum were reported in the soil and groundwater during a 1998 remodel along the south side of the building, necessitating a consent judgment between the Round-Up and DEQ.

Thomas said the judgment requires the Round-Up to address any contamination issues should they arise during a construction project. Additionally, the judgment states the DEQ will review the property every five years to make sure it isn’t harming public health or the environment.

The building may have been operated by Albertsons, but the 3.5-acres of land at 1300 S.W. Court Ave. have been owned by the same family since 1960s.

Ester and Cash Dove entered into a lease in 1971 with Buttrey Food & Drug, a regional grocery chain acquired by Albertsons in 1998.

The Doves passed on the property to their grandchildren — a group of six cousins — who continued to maintain the lease with Albertsons.

Albertsons’ parent company bought Safeway in 2014, and to avoid competing with itself, the Pendleton Albertsons was shut down.

Despite the store’s closure, Dick Cook, one of the six cousins who owns the property, said the family wasn’t able to get out of the lease until October 2016. By the following month, Cook’s cousins and the Round-Up had a handshake deal, he said.

After negotiations and the DEQ judgment, the deal was finalized Friday. Both Thomas and Cook declined to disclose the property’s purchase price, but Cook said it was a fair price.

Spread across Pendleton, the Walla Walla area and Idaho, Cook thought the family was happy with the agreement and its potential to benefit the community.

“I probably felt just as happy for the Round-Up as I did for myself,” he said.

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Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.

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