Editor’s note: With the city poised to take on the new goals created for Ardmore Vision 2025 , The Ardmoreite is creating a series examining the results of its predecessor Vision 2020. This first installment focuses on the improvements and new events that have been added to the Hardy Murphy Coliseum’s offerings.
It’s been a busy decade at the Hardy Murphy Coliseum. Multiple repairs and renovations have attracted new events to the facility and allowed existing events to grow. General Manager Jeff Storms came to the venue in March of 2011 shortly after Vision 2020 was launched in 2009, and he described some of the changes that have taken place during his tenure.
He said one major factor that helped with this growth comes from the funds the coliseum receives based on a hotel/motel tax increase voters passed in 2016. This increase raised the tax paid by people staying in local hotels and motels from 5% to 7%, and a large portion of this increase goes directly to the Hardy Murphy Coliseum. The extra money generated by the tax allowed the coliseum to focus on maintenance items previously ignored due to lack of funding.
“In my very first year, we replaced the roof on the outside of the barrel (the roof covering the arena), and that’s been really good for us,” Storms said. “We just still have a bit more that we need to do.”
Other improvements to the facility include a new perimeter fence installed five years ago, and updating their marquee to a digital board. Minor improvements have been made to the interior of the coliseum, but Storms said they have big plans for the future.
“We’ve got a master plan in place to do some major renovations inside the coliseum and for the entire property,” Storms said. “It’s going to be done in three or four phases and be completed over the course of the next few years.”
Storms said these plans include renovating the interior of the structure’s wings and replacing the flat roof with one with a slope, adding fans and roof insulation to the main barn and various stall barns, creating a covered walkway leading into the arena on the south side, and adding a spectator parking lot.
“I’ve talked to the majority of our big shows, and they’re all on board,” Storms said. “They understand that we’ll have some construction going on but they also want to see the improvements because it will be nicer for them and their contestants.”
Two of their largest events are the Arbuckle Mountain Futurity, an eight-day cutting horse competition in February, and the Non-Pro plus the Open, an 11-day cutting horse competition every June. The same group produces both events, and they both came to town after the implementation of Vision 2020.
Storms said both of these events are large and continuing to grow, but last week’s Southwest Reining Horse Futurity is by far the largest event they host.
“It basically spans about 12 days because they move in on a Wednesday and they’re here all the way through the next week to the following Monday,” Storms said. “This year we ended up with around 600 stalls altogether, and the producers had to turn people away because there wasn’t any more room. Next year our plan is to try to add a tent with another 50 or 60 stalls so we can accommodate more people.”
Storms said the coliseum stays pretty consistently booked. Between large events like the Southwest Reining Horse Futurity and smaller events lasting only a couple days, approximately 100,000 people visit the facility annually, making a significant contribution to the city’s economy.
“While we do have RV spots for the people staying here for multiple days, the majority of the people in our larger shows don’t use them because they are bringing in the bigger trailers for their horses. So they are staying in the hotels,” Storms said. “Even if they are in the RVs, they’re still going to the grocery store and going out to eat. They’re buying gas, and shopping at our stores.”
Storms said that the combined economic impact to the city was just under $11 million according to the equation created by the American Horse Council. This is up from approximately $7 million less than a decade ago.
“The (economic) impact just keeps growing because our numbers keep growing. This past year we increased our income by $188,000,” Storms said. “About $38,000 came from the hotel/motel tax we receive, but that other $150,000 was right here from the shows, our stalls, and RV spaces.”
Storms said he is extremely excited about this growth and looks forward to the future.
“We’ve been very blessed, and it’s going really well,” Storms said. “We have our master plan in place. Hopefully we’ll have everything done in the next five or six years. We’re well on our way.”