Save The Sunbowl

Today, in St. George, I had a quaint experience.  I took my camera and went up to the 65 year city old landmark, The Sunbowl, located at approximately 150 South 400 East.

Dixie's Sunbowl 150 S. 400 East  St. George, Utah
Dixie’s Sunbowl
150 S. 400 East
St. George, Utah

Finding an open gate and no “no trespassing” sign I wandered down onto the grassy field.  There was another gentleman there, whose name I didn’t catch.  He was canvassing the terrain with a treasure hunter’s metal detector.  I’m no expert on such things, but it looked high quality.  I joked with him for a minute about finding some cowboys gold watch.

As I watched him for couple minutes I reminisced about the time I went gold panning at country carnival.

I wanted to tell him, ‘Raise your sights.  This entire place is the treasure!”  There is gold in that there bowl.

Along with my brief stint of couple of decades in municipal government management (less than a third of the lifetime of the Sunbowl) I also became a certified Main Street Manager.  What that means is I have a strong interest in historic preservation.  In fact, since I am boasting, I will confess to managing one of only four cities in Utah that received legislative set aside funding for historic preservation and facade restoration.  Additionally, in upstate New York I ran a grant program for restoration of historic buildings. In humility, I suggest that I know a little about what I am talking about.

Dixie's Sunbowl 150 S. 400 East  St. George, Utah
Dixie’s Sunbowl
150 S. 400 East
St. George, Utah

In the Sunday, June 16, 2013 Spectrum article, The Price of Preserving History, several structures were talked about being historic.  (I encourage you to read the article.)  The Sun Bowl was not listed among them.  The City of St. George owns many of the local historic structures, and preserves them.  That is laudable.  Others have been demolished over the years in favor of new stuff.

Last week I visited with mayoral candidate Jon Pike about the Sun Bowl.  In essence, I volunteered my time to assist in bringing venues to the Sun Bowl to raise funding for its necessary upgrades.  I was quite surprised when he mention that a three-way negotiation was under way to ultimately build an elementary school on the site.  According to him,

“I really think the Sunbowl is going to be replaced by a new elementary school. A three-way deal is well under way. Very difficult situation. Love to talk with you about it.”

It would be a shame to demolish a historic for another crowded elementary school site.  I oppose, for what it’s worth, such a prospect.  I hope that many residents oppose it also.

What surprises me is that none of the people I have spoken with have indicated knowledge of this “three-way deal”.  One issue that is surfacing in the St. George city council race is the need for greater transparency.  It appears that some folks believe too much is done behind closed doors.  I hope the future of The Sunbowl is not one of those situations.  The bull dozing of a landmark should have substantial public discussion. I hope candidates for city Council and mayor will agree.

Recently a project of interest to the mayor has received special presentation to the city council and, as I understand, funding in the future budget.  The project of which I speak in the corrective action necessary to restore the hill west of the city center.  For nearly half the lifetime of The Sunbowl that scar has been there.  It is now as much a landmark as it is a scar.  On one hand the city will spend resources to correct a problem it didn’t overtly create, but overlook preservation of a 65-year-old monument to the city’s past.  I believe that warrants much more open and “transparent” discussion than it has received.

Dixie's Sunbowl 150 S. 400 East  St. George, Utah
Dixie’s Sunbowl
150 S. 400 East
St. George, Utah

The Lion’s Club has focused attention on preservation of The Sunbowl.  They should be applauded.  Citizen’s are ready to step forward to assist.  I cannot speak for all but I have experience with grant writing and major event planning.  Whatever talents I may have gained from those experience are at the free disposal of the city.  There are many many other folks with far superior talents to my own that I believe would step forward if given a legitimate opportunity.

I look forward to reading your comments.

The following is an online conversation I said with Jon Pike, on Facebook.  It is intended to provide additional insight into what is transpiring with The Sunbowl.  Please do not consider it a criticism of Mr. Pike.  He graciously gave me an succinct update as to what is currently transpiring.  I wish to thank him for his openness, and cordial explanation.

“For starters, though, on the Sunbowl, the issues are several fold. DSU needs more land to expand. The school district needs to build a new elementary school in central St. George to replace an ailing East Elementary in a few years. The city likes the idea of attracting more families to central St. George. The Sunbowl, while an awesome part of our history, isn’t actually the right size for rodeo (too long), lacks sufficient parking for any large event, needs at least $2 million to do a relatively minor upgrade, and due to its outdoor nature, isn’t a good venue for concerts that get loud. So, the state has already agreed in principle to fund DSU’s purchase of East Elementary over the next two years. The school district is planning a bond election this November to enable them to build a number of new schools. Since they haven’t been able to identify any other property in central St. George, the Sunbowl is a possible location. If it happens, the city and the school district would share playgrounds (Vernon Worthen Park) and sports recreation components of the new school. The rodeo could then move to Hansen Stadium where new large portable bleachers would be purchased to turn the stadium into a better rodeo arena. The bleachers could also be used to make the stadium a better venue for high school football playoff games.

Anyway,lots of things being discussed by each of the parties involved, including the Lions Club.”


5 thoughts on “Save The Sunbowl

  1. If there is a land swap in the works I imagine it has been initiated by DSU. They have had the East Elementary property on their master plan for some time now. When I was on the School Board it came up and at that time the School Board was not interested in being the one’s to tear down the Sun Bowl. We need to do something to preserve the tradition of the Sun Bowl.

  2. Have others ever been to a rodeo not held in the SunBowl? The SunBowl is a horrific place to hold a rodeo. In fact, this year will be the first year in 20 years that I will not be going. It is too outdated, there is not enough leg room in any seat. Every year the person in front of me has my knees in their back, while they sit on my feet. My feet are also as far back as possible as my back pain flares up over being cramped. The SunBowl concrete is no longer safe to walk on in spots. It crumbles beneath your feet. If you are going to spend money to renovate it, you might as well build a better arena. I no longer enjoy myself while watching a rodeo in the SunBowl. I will however still continue to go to the rodeos in Spanish Fork and Nephi. If you want to see how a rodeo arena should be built for fan enjoyment, then I would suggest you go watch a rodeo there. Spanish Fork just gave their already fantastic rodeo grounds a face lift and more covered seating. St. George needs a new rodeo facility, located near the heart of the city, not out by Hurricane at the fair grounds.

    There are many benefits to having DSU expand to the current East Elementary property. Does others not see that that an expanding University in this town will also bring expanded business and jobs?

    The St. George City council has long tried to “revive” downtown St. George. They have not succeeded as much as they could have, because they have not brought young families into downtown to live. Providing a new elementary school would help with this effort.

    If the city would spend the money to create a new arena near the current Dixie Center, it would be a fantastic spot not only for people to go see the rodeo, but would also be great for local business. They could start getting better cowboys and cowgirls to the event. It is close access for everyone traveling and near the freeway for easy access with livestock and horses. The community members would still be close in proximity to the new arena. It would also minimize the residents effected by having to listen to rodeo loudspeakers and have their street shut down for a week. It would be a win, win, win in all 3 situations.

  3. What about a petition to save the Sun Bowl? I would sign it. We need to save it! I have such wonderful memories there. And so should our children. I love the Sun Bowl….

  4. School district needs to go back to their old motto, “proceed with what is best for kids.” And frankly, we do need a new city center elementary to replace East Elementary and pick up some enrollment from the former West Elementary (replaced by that oversized Hall of Justice) to help revive the area adjacent to the SG’s boulevard commercial district. The higher and best use for the East Elementary property is for DSU to make it part of their :”annex” campus, if you will.
    I love the Sun Bowl, have fond memories from rodeos, boys tackle football leagues, old Dixie High football games…but it is an anachonism. Go forward. Move on. Improve—but only if proper criteria are met. Sadly, the Sun Bowl cannot meet criteria for preservation.

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