Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Time has come to turn over arena in park
For the past 50 years, the Victoria Horseman's Club has held a lease for the arena space in Riverside Park. That lease was recently terminated by the Victoria City Council after months of controversy between the two parties.
According to City Attorney Thomas Gwosdz, the club has breached the contract on eight fronts. Now, City Manager Charmelle Garrett must send the club a certified letter expressing the city's intention to terminate the lease.
This issue has been part of an ongoing controversy between the club and the city since the issue was raised in 2012. We understand the city's concerns about the arena's condition, but we wonder what can be accomplished by terminating the lease early instead of simply not renewing the lease at the end of this year. The club has held the space for 50 years, which has seen its good and bad times. The club once had stalls in the arena where people could keep their horses and ride around the park. The arena's condition is different today. However, the city will examine the arena and make recommendations for changes that will be planned in next year's budget. If money for these changes will not be available until next year, why should the city force the club out early?
It's time for a new chapter for the arena in Riverside Park. The club has seen many years of use in the facility, and it will still be available for public use, but the city will now be responsible for maintaining the property. A similar situation unfolded in 2011 with the Friends of Victoria Baseball group that used to maintain Riverside Stadium and put in a lot of work to restore the stadium after the 1998 flood. In both cases, the work of private citizens gave plenty of positive time and changes for Victoria, but the time is right for a change.
Donna Sparks, a member of the Horseman's Club, said in a previous article that membership has been down. Lower membership means fewer dues are being paid and fewer people are available to help with the upkeep of the arena. With that in mind, the time is right for the city to step in to handle the expenses and labor required to maintain the arena while still making it available for anyone, including the club, to use.
We are grateful for the years of service from the Horseman's Club. But now is the time for a new chapter for the facility. Although the club will not have sole use of the arena, it is still open for use, and we hope the club will continue to take advantage of the facility as the city takes over maintenance responsibilities.
This chapter may be done, but the club's story isn't finished.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.