Jacksonville Daily Progress
The Jacksonville City Council on Tuesday formally approved a new 10-year lease contract with the Jacksonville Rodeo Association – clearing the way for the 51st Annual TOPS In Texas Rodeo, May 15 - 18.
Byron Underwood, president of the association, said now that everything is on paper, the rodeo can proceed like it always has.
“It's all back the way it used to be,” he said.
Underwood said he is optimistic that the rodeo this year can attract the thousands it always has.
“We hope to have at least that many,” he said.
The Rodeo Association also was granted the use of the Norman Center for the weeks of May 6 -10 and May 13 - 17 to sell tickets to that rodeo.
The city's first rodeo was held on July 10, 1963, and continued for years.
The city deeded the rodeo grounds to Lon Morris College with specific considerations in April 2009.
One requirement was that the college invest $250,000 in improvements to the grounds, including painting, roof patching, and regular maintenance. That work was never finished, and the rodeo association had to absorb maintenance costs.
Things got fairly bumpy during the Lon Morris College bankruptcy.
Officials with auctioneer company Ameribid accidentally sold the rodeo grounds and related city property to a high bidder during a January auction, then passed the problem on to Federal Bankruptcy Judge Bill Parker rather than correct the mistake themselves.
Parker ultimately intervened and returned the property to the city.
Underwood said the headaches caused by that period have subsided now that the ink has been placed on the new leasing contracts with the city.
“The language of the contracts is worded like it always was,” Underwood said. “No one can say, 'Will you get to have the rodeo this year?' It's all like it was. It's good.”