The 99th Ski-Hi Stampede drew crowds that the Stampede Volunteer Committee had never seen before.
A total of 9,356 paying customers showed up for the 4-day Stampede, including 3,420 fans for Thursday’s opening night concert featuring Scotty McCreery and a whopping 2,500 spectators to Saturday’s rodeo.
“Saturday night was the first sell-out that any of us remember,” said Volunteer Committee member Karla Willshau.
Friday’s opening rodeo drew a crowd of 1,716; Sunday’s rodeo drew another 1,720 rodeo fans.
New Ski-Hi Regional Complex debuts during 99th Stampede
MONTE VISTA — “Nice looking building.”
“Big improvement over what we had.”
“I like the front entrance.”
Members of the Ski-Hi Stampede Ag Committee were waiting to get their first tour of the new Ski-Hi Regional Complex just days ahead of the 99th Ski-Hi Stampede which opened Thursday, July 22. Committee members could hardly contain their excitement as they waited to enter the 54,473-square-foot multi-purpose building.
Once inside, the spaciousness brought immediate thoughts of the possibilities: Hosting the annual SLV Fair, the Crane Festival, ag conferences, small conventions, use as a reception hall for weddings and quinceaneras and other community celebrations.
“It exceeds my expectation by a lot,” said Karla Willschau, past president and current volunteer of the Stampede Committee. “I could just cry.” And in fact she does as she high-fives the project’s visionary leader, Karla Shriver.
The regional complex is as modern and updated and brand-spanking-new as anyone involved with the $8.6 million project had dreamed. That it got built – and built during the COVID-19 pandemic which caused significant supply chain disruptions for the all-star general contracting team from Alcon Construction – is as close to a Stampede miracle as annual visitors to the event and Monte Vista have ever seen.
“I don’t think anybody thought it would become a reality,” said Kathy Woods, a Monte Vista native who has been saddled next to Shriver as collaborators of big things for the past 35 years.
It was Shriver, a past president of the Stampede Committee, who approached Woods about her latest idea: Replace the aging events complex, which also once housed the Ski-Hi swimming pool that was condemned in 2005. Otherwise the Stampede itself was in jeopardy, which would be disastrous for Monte Vista and the Valley.
Shriver had a sense of urgency after the city of Monte Vista condemned the building in February 2018 with no action plan for how to replace it. It was then that Friends of Ski-Hi organized.
The city of Monte Vista and city council were first approached with the idea in December of 2018. Shriver and Woods would lead the effort to raise the money through foundations and individual contributions. Then in June 2020, with COVID-19 to contend with and $6 million still to raise to cover the expected cost, Shriver, Woods, and the city of Monte Vista faced decision-time: Would they order the building and the materials to meet the deadline of the 2021 Stampede? Or would they delay and possibly kill the project as being too risky without more money secured to cover the cost?
“We were chickens with our necks stuck out there,” is how Shriver puts it.
They found their faith to move ahead in Alcon Construction, and specifically owner Georgia Cook, who urged everyone to move forward for the betterment of the Valley. Alcon was willing to get paid as money was raised and put its own reputation on the line to get the job done. “Alcon had the faith and confidence in us to raise the money,” Shriver said.
Friends of the Stampede have raised $8.6 million and need to raise another $152,000 to complete the building costs. Shriver thinks the final price tag will be around $9 million once initial design costs and upcoming furnishings for the conference center situated on the east end of the complex are factored in.
In addition to her many projects across the San Luis Valley, including initiating the start of trail-building SLV GO, Shriver also is trustee of The Outcalt Foundation established following the death of Ralph Outcalt, who was owner of Sorum Tractor and at one time an owner of First National Bank in Alamosa. He died at age 101 in April 2014.
“Ralph would be proud of the potential use for agriculture, youth development and education,” said Shriver of the $4.2 million the Outcalt Foundation provided to the project. “He’s looking down and smiling big time.”
It’s hard to see how the project gets done without the Outcalt Foundation contribution. Now the city of Monte Vista has a new regional events complex and has to develop a strategy to fill it with events and activities. But with no debt on the building, it’s a business proposition that stands a good chance of succeeding, particularly if the rest of the San Luis Valley embraces it and puts it to the intended use of becoming a “regional complex.”