A series of major improvements at Hardy Murphy Coliseum have given Coliseum Manager Tim Lynch an edge when it comes to attracting large equine events to Ardmore.


A series of major improvements at Hardy Murphy Coliseum have given Coliseum Manager Tim Lynch an edge when it comes to attracting large equine events to Ardmore.


“It’s definitely a ‘field of dreams’ situation,’” he said. “We built it, and they are coming. As soon as we got our third arena finished in 2008, we signed contracts on three events for 2009 that will bring over 500 horses for five to seven days.”


Lynch said each of those three events will bring an average of 1,500 people to Ardmore.
The Hardy Murphy Trust Authority is responsible for overseeing all the renovations and improvements in and around the historic rock building that was built as a WPA project in 1937.

Lynch said the upgrades were made possible through financial support from area foundations, the Ardmore Tourism Authority, the Chickasaw Nation, the Ardmore City Council and local ranchers.
A number of projects were completed in 2008 including a 200-stall horse barn, which increased the total stall capacity to 550. The covered outdoor arena behind the coliseum received several important upgrades.


“We installed six 24-foot fans in the ceiling to cool the arena in the summer,” he said. “We installed windscreens so it will be more usable in the winter. And we installed a 700-seat aluminum grandstand. We’ve made the building more rentable.”


A second, smaller outdoor arena was completed in 2008, and 500 of the old, wooden seats inside the coliseum were replaced. The walls of the west wing of the coliseum were painted red, white and blue in a “Star Spangled Banner” theme. Other improvements including a new perimeter fence and covered passageways between buildings are planned in 2009.


Lynch said the multi-year expansion project is paying tangible dividends.


“The Southwest Reined Cowhorse Association is moving its annual futurity to Ardmore from Waco, Texas.” he said. “In December, we are going to have a major barrel horse futurity that is moving here from Memphis, Tenn. Its featured event is a 50-horse invitational race with a $100,000 guaranteed first place prize.”


Lynch said his job is much easier because of the support he receives from staff members like operations manager Kelly Bryant and his administrative director Kari Smart.


“The truth of the matter is that none of this would have come to fruition if I didn’t have a staff like I do,” he said.


Lynch said unlike in other parts of the country, the national economic slowdown has yet to affect the coliseum’s operations.


“We’ve had 48 weekends a year filled the last five years,” he said. “The number of events we have won’t change, but the character of the events will. They are getting bigger. We are filling our week days as well as our weekends. And we can have two events at the same time.”


Steve Biehn, 221-6546
steve.biehn@ardmoreite.com