The Norco City Council Wednesday voted unanimously to move forward with the Moreno Arena bleacher replacement project at the Ingalls Event Center.

Wednesday’s special meeting was the second workshop the council has had about the bleachers. At the first, held last November, Hamilton said the council requested that city staff meet with the various stakeholder groups at the event center so the city could make a more informed decision.

Amanda Hamilton, facilities and maintenance director, said the city did just that, meeting with the Norco Rodeo Committees on Dec. 12, the Dog Agility Show clients on Jan. 10 and the Norco Equestrian Clubs on Jan. 31 to discuss the various options for either restoring or replacing the existing bleachers.

Out of the five options presented to the council, two were previously disqualified. The cheapest option, coming in at $800,000, would have restored the bleachers to a minimal repair standard but was disqualified because it met neither the city’s nor the stakeholders’ objectives. The most expensive option, coming in at $3.6 million, was disqualified because it also failed to meet both the city’s and stakeholders’ objectives.

The remaining options — Option 2, Option 3 and Option 5 — would cost the city anywhere from $1.4 million to $3.3 million to construct.

“Option 2’s construction costs are $1.4 million, and this option is the recommended action in moving forward with the bleacher system, and would replace the existing 25-row bleacher set,” Hamilton said. “This option would allow for a consistent seating experience, updated standards and a new structural section that would be free from the previous damage that we have now.”

Option 3, coming in at $2.8 million, would increase bleacher seating from its current amount of less than 2,000 to either 3,000 or 4,000 depending on seat size. Option 5, suggested by the Norco Rodeo Committees, would cost $3.3 million and would allow for between 3,500 to 4,700 seats, depending on seat size, would include a VIP area for their events and would reduce the arena size by about 20 feet.

“One thing when we were evaluating the expansion options is we really wanted to also look into revenues,” Hamilton said. “It is important to note that our Dog Agility Show clients bring in approximately 45% of the revenues at Moreno Arena.”

The Dog Agility Show clients, Hamilton said, were against any expansion of the bleachers due to concerns that it would decrease the amount of space for shade, kennels, vendors and staging.

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She said that most of the other events held in the city preferred to use other spaces, like Clark Arena, because it is a larger arena with easily-accessible horse trailer parking, though she said the groups would use Moreno Arena when necessary due to unforeseen conditions.

“If Options 3, 4 or 5 are approved, this will have impacts to our current clients and will cause Moreno Arena to be less versatile,” Hamilton said. “The recommended action is for council to consider Option 2 for the replacement of the bleacher system without expansion.”

And while Bonnie Slager, president of the Norco Horsemen’s Association, spoke in favor of expanding the bleachers to allow for additional spectators at events, the council was unanimously in agreement with the staff recommendation to simply replace the existing bleachers without any sort of expansion.

“If we’re going to spend $800,000 [with Option 1 for minimal repairs], we might as well spend a little bit more, because we’re only fixing part of the problem, we’re going to end up back in the same boat again later,” Councilmember Katherine Aleman said. “We might as well fix it, do it right, get everything corrected so that our asset will last the amount of time that we want it to. We’re using taxpayer money, and so we want to use that as conservatively and wisely as possible.”

Hamilton said the city previously allocated $600,000 to repair the bleachers, but would need an additional $962,000 in Measure R funds to fully fund the project amount, which includes a 10% contingency, which the council did not agree with.

“I’m totally against using Measure R money for anything that it wasn’t promised it would be used for,” Councilmember Berwin Hanna said. “Four of us sitting up here signed our name on that, we put in a lot of work promising these people what Measure R money was gonna be used for, and I’m totally against going and using it for anything else, because I don’t want people thinking I’m a liar.” 

The council ultimately ended up approving Option 2 with the stipulation that city staff look into offsetting the price through some sort of cost-sharing with those who use the arena and without the use of Measure R funds.

Hamilton said she expected to come back to the council at the second meeting in April to award the purchase of material so the company can get started on production of the bleachers with a goal of getting the materials by the fall with installation completed by February of next year. She said the current bleachers are slated to come down following the Norco Fair, which ends Sept. 2.

“We have a stamp-approved plan for the bleacher set right now by a structural engineer saying they’re good for this year,” Hamilton said.

A full recording of the meeting can be found here on the city’s YouTube channel.

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