Paul Ables spoke to county leaders during the public comment period of the court’s meeting that morning about the arena on Sept. 22.
“Recently, we had a horse show at the coliseum in the new arena,” he said. “I wanted to bring to y’alls attention that the conditions out there were horrible.
“The bathrooms were nasty.
“The area was in extremely poor condition.
“I spent most of the day picking up trash out of the arena which consisted of glass and broken Coke cans that were tore up.”
His concern was for the animals and children that would be riding the arena during the show.
“We have kids out there as young as five years old riding horses,” he said. “I would hate for them to have an incident where they fall off a horse and they get cut up because there was glass or Coke cans in the arena.
“I personally think that was totally uncalled for.”
But it wasn’t just trash left in the dirt.
“All the pens need a tremendous amount of work done to them.
“I don’t know what the situation is out there,” he said, “if we are under budgeted out there or if we are just letting people come in that are getting carried away and tearing stuff up.
“There is a lot of maintenance work that needs to be done.”
The conditions they found that day, he said, could give some second thoughts about using the area.
“We have people coming in all the way from Austin,” Ables said. “When the leaders of our committee hear people start comparing this arena to Sinton and how much better Sinton is, that is a down note.
“I don’t know if y’all are aware of these conditions out there. Hopefully, we can start making some adjustments out there.”
Ables said he didn’t want to lose the arena and wanted to continue having shows here.
“Our organization is growing every year,” he said. “It is a benefit for us, but people aren’t going to want to come to shabby conditions.”
Commissioner Carlos Salazar asked, “Y’all have used it before in the past? Has it been that way in the past?”
Ables responded, “It has progressively been getting worse.
“Last year after the monster truck deal, we spent three or four hours going through that arena picking up trash, and we are talking pieces of plastic and shards of glass.
“This stuff is not only harmful to the kids but to the horse.
“You have people spending five or six thousand dollars on a horse just so these kids can go out there and be a part of something.”
Salazar explained that the trash found in the dirt was possibly left over from another recent event.
“It is no excuse, but they just had a circus out there not too long ago, and I guarantee you that might have had a lot to do with it — I know that is no excuse — it should have been picked up.”
Ables responded, “I understand the purpose of using the arena for other things.
“They do need to make an extra effort to get this stuff out of there, because you are putting people’s and animal’s lives at stake here.”
This wasn’t the first complaint that commissioners have heard about the facilities either.
During the court’s Sept. 24 meeting, Nelda Garza appeared before the court with similar concerns — this time about the restrooms during the Diez y Seis celebration.
Garza was one of the vendors at the annual festival.
“I had a young lady working with me. She had a small daughter – five years old.
“We went to the ladies facilities. It was totally disgusting.
“I felt so bad to have to expose a young lady of five years old to such filth.
“It was just horrible.
“There is no need for something like that. None whatsoever.”
Garza said that she asked various people at the festival what they thought of the restrooms, and the response was about the same from everyone.
“The bathrooms are always like that,” she was told. “Nothing ever gets done.”
Garza asked of the commissioners, “Would Judge Silva take his daughter to a facility like that?
“Would Carlos Salazar take his granddaughter to something like this?
“They wouldn’t walk into it, because they know what it is like.”
She added that she also attended the Lonesome Dove Fest in Karnes County and was expecting to see the same deplorable conditions at their fairgrounds.
But she didn’t. In fact, she found someone in the restrooms cleaning them.
“If we are going to have an event here, why can’t we have a janitorial service like that?” she asked. “Why can’t we do what they did?
“I just hope when Western Week comes up something gets done. That is all I can say.”
Garza was also concerned about the lack of nearby handicapped facilities.
“I understand there are handicapped facilities somewhere on the other side,” she said. “There was nothing on this side where the event was being held.”
Just over two weeks ago, Tricia Sugarek wrote a letter to this newspaper with her concerns from Diez y Seis.
“What started out as a fun occasion ended in an appalling exposure to the poor state of the Expo Center. The bathrooms could only be described as ‘a pigsty,’ unfit for human use, yet ‘if you had to go, you had to go,’ and people from this community were forced into what should have been an intolerable and unacceptable situation.
“I subsequently found that the bathrooms were only rated for use up to 300 people, which is far lower by a factor of thousands, than the number of people actually attending the event.
“Where were the city and county health inspectors? I understand that the city gave the event $50,000 because it would attract tourists to Beeville. I would be amazed if there were any tourists there, but if they had been there, the Expo Center would have been a poor introduction to the city of Beeville.”
Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez later said that he would do what he could to improve the situation during next year’s Diez y Seis event.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.