On the EDge: Save the Sunbowl

OPINION – Finally, it seems, there is some serious effort being put into preserving the Dixie Sunbowl, the little stadium in the heart of St. George.

It would be extremely unwise to tear the place down or even consider moving the annual Dixie Roundup Rodeo to the fairgrounds, which would be foolish, or to Hansen Stadium, which would be asinine.

The Sunbowl is one of the few historic landmarks of this town and, yeah, it could use a bit of a facelift, a little paint, and a lot of TLC after years of neglect, but the Sunbowl is a very cool throwback piece for the city; a site with long history and loving memories. Just because it is 66 years old doesn’t mean it shouldn’t continue to be an important part of the community. In fact, the Sunbowl has so many potential uses – concerts, civic events, the annual Fourth of July celebration, perhaps a place to showcase the local youth sports teams, a place for car shows, art exhibits, you name it. City officials just need to be creative and accepting rather than judgmental as far as booking events there. In fact, the city should hire somebody with some real-world experience to book the Sunbowl and other city-owned properties, somebody with some creative juices in their blood and diversity in their mind.

We just returned from nearly a week in Colorado, where they have a wickedly beautiful mix of old and new in their cities and towns.

There are vital downtown areas, most notably in Denver, where people congregate for a meal, a drink, or to socialize with one another; old-town settings where magnificent old buildings stand next to progressively artistic and majestic new buildings.

It is not a city of chain stores and restaurants you can find in Anywhere, USA. I mean, yeah, I’m sure there must be an Olive Garden somewhere, but we didn’t see it. Instead, we saw bistros and boutiques; a serious art district; places of culture and diversity.

It had flavor, zest and is anything but a bologna and cheese sandwich with mayo on white bread.

But, that’s because it takes a progressive attitude to realize that a community is comprised of many flavors, shapes, sizes, colors.

I realize, of course, that Utah will never match Colorado for its progressiveness. But, Denver offers areas where you can wander through beautiful old churches where people still gather to worship or where you can step into a state-of-the-art concert hall and see a world-class performer (Robert Plant, of Led Zeppelin fame, is set to perform this week at one of them).

It is a place of fashion, passion, and art. And, yes, a place where you can walk into one of the 47 dispensaries where they sell recreational cannabis under very strict regulation. It is a very interesting and strange experience to walk into a store, see a large display of various strains of cannabis and realize it is all perfectly legal. The people running these places? This ain’t Cheech and Chong. These guys are serious because nobody wants to mess up and give the burgeoning business a black eye.

There are immensely talented street musicians; vendors who will sell you an ice cream cone, a soft pretzel, a hot dog; but most importantly, there are people who gather there to socialize and, to be purely capitalistic, spend money.

Granted, St. George does not have a population anywhere near that of Denver but still, it’s no secret that all cities are measured by the vitality of their downtown area. The suburbs are where you find strip malls and chain stores. St. George deserves to be more than a long-distance suburb of Salt Lake City.

That’s why more and more communities have realized that it is best to push the cookie-cutter businesses to the outskirts or suburbs and dedicate its downtown to the charm and unique qualities that make it different than any other place.

We saw this practiced in Mexico where buildings that are centuries-old are still in use, much as they were when they were built. They are well cared for and nurtured instead of being torn down and replaced with some bright and shiny boxes. Every city, whether large or small, also has a plaza where the community gathers regularly for events ranging from Independence Day celebrations to art and music festivals, holiday bazaars, or just to mingle.

A splash pad, a carousel, and an art exhibit on a piece of greenspace just isn’t enough, unfortunately, to keep people coming. It’s also not such a good idea to roll up the sidewalks at sundown.

It would take a lot of work, but St. George could follow suit. All it takes is a courageous City Council willing to pass strict ordinances. I offer the actions taken in Bend, Oregon, and Grand Junction, Colorado, about 20 years ago to restore their downtown areas that were sagging.

And, it should start here with the Sunbowl.

Families have been going there for a long time now. Many memories were created there. It’s not just a pile of concrete and dirt and should be a place where the community can gather well into the future.

I worry about what will happen when the city finishes with the old Electric Theatre. I fear it will be another waste of taxpayer money, not because it will be spruced up, but because it will do little to broaden the artistic and cultural base and serve only a small, select segment of the community.

I worry that the vision will not be broad enough to realize that the Sunbowl should not be preserved only to house one or two annual events.

I worry because I have seen so much of this country lose its identity, its individuality, its charm.

Save the Sunbowl?

You bet.

But, don’t forget about the rest of downtown.

Keep the stores open longer, offer activities and events that appeal to a variety of people of different interests, ages, cultures in a warm and welcoming manner. Most importantly, find an identity and give people a reason to rediscover the downtown area.

It will pay off.

No bad days!

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Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

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  • sagemoon September 30, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Good article, Ed.

  • smon September 30, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Ed…I was refreshed to see you make positive comments about a proposed project by the City of St. George. I’m having a hard time figuring out how you can be so negative about the Electric Theatre, yet at the same time suggest that the City should do largely the same thing with the Sunbowl that they are doing with the Electric Theatre. There seems to me to be some conflict there……

    • Ed Kociela September 30, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      Simon, my concerns center on what they will do with the facility once complete. Spending a million bucks or so to renovate a place is wasted money if they don’t use it properly and book events that will actually draw crowds and pay for itself.

  • jimmyJamm September 30, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Wow something we finally agree on!…All but the pot part.

  • Me September 30, 2014 at 10:55 am

    Dinosaur. That space could have far better uses.

  • Gundog September 30, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Well said Ed! I Love this town except for the fact that it’s culturally starved. After 9pm it’s a ghost town….your stuck with Applebee’s and the like. Although George’s is a great start. I’ve always said that this town could be the “Park City” of southern Utah….if they let it. Let this place live!

  • oldprostg September 30, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Ed, is so far off base,,,,AGAIN. Should have been removed 20 years ago and a 12,500 seat area with unground parking, where all the High Schools and University could play Basketball games, Could be used by Clerebity Series, outside concerts, etc. Move in to the next stage of your live Ed, or find another hobby.

  • Julius Ceaser September 30, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Perhaps St George could mimic early Rome with its coliseum by flooding the Sun Bowl arena and having mock naval battles. Introduce gladiator type battles with the opponents dressed in their Neophite and Laminite outfits (the ones that look like Romans, Aztecs, Greeks or Middle Easterners) and mimic their fabricated racial wars of those societies that never ever existed.

  • Koolaid September 30, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Look closely at the picture. Do you see the crop circles (an insect maybe) in the middle of the sun bowl? Were these left by aliens as a sign of future roundabouts?

  • jar September 30, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Nice to hear your culture side Ed. Your view of possibly turning the Sun bowl area into a area attraction to be proud of is interesting. Since parking might be a issue, Maybe a (free)city operated horse & carriage system with a tape recorded guide might fit in. ‘Current stop- fine dining awaits you at the Sun Bowl Bristol’s'(‘don’t forget about the fun Bull Ride machine at the Pioneer Brewery’ bah bah’. Next Stop, the world renown St. George Mormon Temple. Followed by the Culture Arts district . (Vote Yes on the Rap tax)

    • Herd October 2, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      Culture Arts District = Mormon Pioneer History

  • Educated&Opinionated September 30, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Blame DSU and the Washington County school district. The land that houses East elementary that serves the downtown residents was sold to DSU for expansion. The consideration to demo the Sunbowl, from what I understand, comes on the heels of this deal. The district is looking mainly at the Sunbowl area to place the new school. My children attend East, we live a few blocks away, but were not informed of this until after the deal was done. I think public input should’ve been allowed. It’s very frustrating that everyone, including local law enforcement, curtails to DSU and it’s wants and desires….because it brings in $$…?? idk. DSU could’ve easily expanded elsewhere in town, like other universities. and considered a secondary campus maybe, like the old airport for example, without impacting the local community as much. But they continue to insert themselves into the residential area surrounding the established campus and it’s careless. I don’t get it.

  • Brady September 30, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    I agree with your comments about the need for a vibrant downtown, but you are mistaken in thinking that the Sunbowl is a good venue for any of the events you mention. Even if it was completely restored, there is still no parking in that location. It’s in the middle of a residential neighborhood, so loud concerts and lots of traffic would very disruptive. Plus it just isn’t big enough for most events. They have to close down the street for a week for the rodeo and that’s not practical to do every time there’s something planned there. Put nostalgia aside and see the facts. Then spend the money to build a better stadium in a better location. I’m sure the city could put that property to better use — perhaps even in adding more downtown entertainment options in it’s place.

  • MUGGS September 30, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    st george born , red sand in my blood, I would love to see my taxes go to preserving our heritage and memories.. work with tourists and new people every day they cant get over what a unique and special place we get to live in!

  • Randoogle September 30, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    As I recall, they are planning on making that spot into an elementary school, not a stripmall. East Elementary was purchased by DSU, and so the elementary needs a new location. I don’t know if there are some better locations for the school or anything, but you ought to at least meantion what the plans actually are for that spot. School vs Sunbowl is a different argument than Stripmall vs Sunbowl, I think.

    • Ed Kociela September 30, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      There is another spot picked for the elementary school. My reference to strip malls is a reference to what most of our area has become.

  • M and M cookies September 30, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    I would never go downtown at night… And a waste of money to save the disks bowl…the downtown died when you took the theater out.. And many restaurants have come and gone.. My daughter and family went to see the movie, th parked in the tall garage, homeless people were there, going to th bathroom some teenagers were in the elevator and stated a some bomb, her little kids were so scared.. And I am tired of peopl in swimsuits ad some naked inthe water fountain area… If you think 17,000 peopl, Amy wo were tourist, is enough of 180,000 in the cont to have the est of us tax payers pay the renovation,, think again…. He money could be put to better use, like getting a better drainage system…

    • Betty September 30, 2014 at 5:27 pm

      Again M & M, please use a spell checker or have your comments edited (by someone else) before you click on the “Submit Your Comment” button. Thank you.

    • Good Mormon? September 30, 2014 at 7:21 pm

      Were you drunk when you posted this?

      • Bobber September 30, 2014 at 10:44 pm

        has to be amphetamines and redbull, maybe a little crack…

        • Koolaid October 1, 2014 at 3:57 pm

          Sipping the koolaid again?

          • trdoubleee October 6, 2014 at 10:47 pm

            all mormons drink koolaid

  • bob September 30, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    I agree with the need for more to do at night here in St. George, but the Sun Bowl property would best be used for other purposes. Twice a year is not worth keeping it in its now state.

  • MB September 30, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Great article, Ed. I totally agree with the idea of keeping the Sun Bowl in tact.
    Improvements to the facility will open up more opportunities for a variety of uses.

  • T September 30, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Southern Utah born, raised, and will die here. A pub of some kind, something for the adults to do, hell I was in Vegas last week at a rock concert, beer was $12.00 a cup hard drinks $11.00. People want to drink and will pay to do so here or there, rather see this place get the money

    • Koolaid September 30, 2014 at 8:57 pm

      You’ll die before that ever happens in St George. Gotta keep that (phony) pure image alive.

      • Simone October 1, 2014 at 2:41 am

        100% agreed Koolaid. 100% agreed.

  • mesaman September 30, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    It’s been a long, long time since we agreed upon anything, Ed but we do on the Sun Bowl. It’s been here long enough to qualify as a historical site and should be considered in that light. If the new-lies don’t like it, tell em to move to Kayenta.

  • asianspa September 30, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    I hope the city will not renovate the Electric Theatre only to let it sit and then occasionally open it up to some withered Barbershop Quartet, or some random 3rd cousin of Donny Osmond , etc.. They will turn it into The Opera House Jr. The city seems to have a very limited viewpoint on what is “entertainment” and what is to be allowed.

    I remember growing up here and every year during Spring Break the city would try to go into lockdown mode until the medians came and Spring Break St George had got the KO punch to kill it off once and for all. The city rather than spending money on medians should have been figuring out a way to monetize what it had with Spring Break and putting that money to good public use . Figuring out ways to make money without raising taxes is apparently not in the St George City’s limited vocabulary much like its limited approach to entertainment.

  • Bobber September 30, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    I’m waiting for us to get a strip club in stg. It would give me somewhere to go at night and get away from the wife for awhile. Kills two birds…

  • Ken October 1, 2014 at 1:14 am

    Has anyone actually done a budget analysis to determine what it costs a year to maintain the SUN BOWL open all year long for two or three uses. Nobody has identified what the renovations would be. Heard $2 million to restore it, just doesn’t doesn’t make sense, to continue to get 2 or 3 uses per year while also paying to maintain it empty the remaining 50 weeks per year. What does it cost the city to maintain it empty as is??? If it was improved to be an attractive venue, it has all of the problems Brady identified…residential area, NO PARKING and no management plan. Has the city paid a consultant to do a cost analysis to determine return on investment? That ought to be the first step! I would support RAP but definitely don’t want any of it to go to an underutilized, problematic, empty facility that costs $50k to 150k annually to maintain! Still undecided on RAP because of the SUN BOWL and splash pads!!! Probably voting NO. We need soccer fields, a water park and more sound business decisions!

    • Cost October 1, 2014 at 8:49 am

      Did the city do a cost analysis before dumping one million into the Electric Theater building? Did the city consult with people in this town before throwing away that one million dollars to buy out the owner just to control the building and prevent it from becoming another music venue, something this sorry city woefully needs?

      • asianspa October 1, 2014 at 1:23 pm

        The fine leaders of the city felt 1 million dollars was a bargain price for control and to eliminate the sin associated with Music and Dancing! We all know what Dancing leads to..

        The city doesn’t do budget analysis they do Celestial Kingdom/”What will my neighbors think” analysis.

  • Simone October 1, 2014 at 3:02 am

    To many people who hate things like change and progression live here. Nothing will happen to the sunbowl anytime soon. 🙂

    • asianspa October 1, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      The good news: The dinosaurs are going extinct and they are losing their power … but The Bad News: The dinosaurs also raised a nice new generation of Dinosaurs so any type of thinking that is out of the box or requires some creativity is dismissed. The city always will be ran by a bunch of pucker butts affraid to really attack problems and push solutions. It is all aesthetic.. just look the part and it is good enough. Mayor McCarthur signed an Anti Porno Proclaimation.. so this town OBVIOUSLY doesn’t have a problem with porno..

      • Koolaid October 1, 2014 at 3:17 pm

        That former council member Nichols was a prime example of new generation of dinosaurs.

  • Max October 1, 2014 at 5:25 am

    Tear it down, add to the sorry rec center, follow Washington City’s lead.

  • Just A Guy October 11, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    Here is how I see it. And this is not a personal attack ED, so don’t take it that way. We have many that come from out of the area and settle here, thinking they have answer of how to make our community better. The Sun Bowl needs to be moved to a better location. Being right in the middle of a residential area is crazy. I enjoy the Rodeo, but there are other programs that happen there where the audio is so load it drowns out your own voices in your house (just kidding), but it is loud.
    We already have facility that are built. Example the Convention Center. This is so poorly managed and so under booked that events are to costly to host there. They need to get out and sell it.
    The college has excellent facilities for conference, but we are forgetting Private Enterprise. Having a privately run convention center that was multipurpose would be a good idea. We need to get back to WHAT DO WE WANT ST. GEORGE TO BE, who is going to profit from it. The community or deep pockets. Example the Airport…What a total joke.
    The school needs a new location and so does the LDS church on 100 S. and 400 E.. It comes down to which one is going to serve the community better.

  • Crispin November 14, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Faces of Cannabis, Denver’s finest:

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