In the early 2000s, Pastor Scott Kujath suddenly envisioned an indoor rodeo arena and the words “redeeming our heritage.” He felt like it was something God was asking him to do.
“I chuckled. Because I’m not a cowboy,” Kujath said. “To feel like God’s asking me to do a rodeo arena is actually kind of funny to me.”
Years later, Kujath and the congregation at the Pine Valley Church in Bayfield are working toward making the idea into a multimillion-dollar reality.
The church has developed preliminary site plans for the Pine Valley Heritage Event Center, an expansive complex covering about 70 acres off County Road 501 near Bayfield. The project has a long way to go: It needs to gain approval from Bayfield and La Plata County, finalize designs and raise a hefty $24 million.
“One of our goals for this whole project is we are not going to go into debt to build this arena,” Kujath said. “Either God shows up and does something pretty miraculous, or it was just a great dream.”
The current plans for the heritage event center place it on 71.1 acres, formerly owned by the Dove Ranch subdivision and purchased by the church in the mid-2010s. The property, divided into two plots, has an assessed value of $754,670, according to the La Plata County land map.
Preliminary site plans show an outdoor amphitheater, rodeo arena, RV hookups, cabin and tent areas, a prayer trail, overlook, healing gardens and more. The multiuse event center would have room for 500 people, Kujath said.
The church intends to create a nontraditional venue where people can still be exposed to their faith. Because it is intended to be a debt-free project, the church will not need to rely on large events to pay for construction. It would be free to focus on events that are best for the community, Kujath said.
“My hope for this event center is that it’s going to be a blessing for our local community, for our kids,” Kujath said.
As a community-minded facility, local residents would be able to use it for training and for their own events.
“We’ve got some incredible Western kids; I want them to be the best in the state,” Kujath said. “I want them to be the best at whatever it is God put in their heart to do. If we can help create opportunities for them to get better, that’s our heart.”
The center is also intended to preserve Western heritage for future generations, which Kujath said was being squeezed out of Durango.
The town of Bayfield does not have a similar event/conference center, nor does Durango. However, when visitors do roll through town during annual events, Kujath has noted the economic benefit to local businesses.
“I’m like, ‘Imagine doing that two to three times a month instead of once a year,’” Kujath said.
The Heritage Event Center could attract concerts, rodeos, horse shows, 4-H club events and conferences, he said.
The church is already accepting donations to create the event center. All funding designated for the arena is legally required to be used for that purpose. If the project does not happen, the church will individually contact donors to ask about how their donation should be used.
Once it is operational, all arena profits and proceeds will go to help projects managed by other missions, such as orphanages and schools in developing countries.
Within the next few months, Kujath said the church will present its project to the town of Bayfield. Then it will need to work on access with La Plata County – and along the way raise millions of dollars.
If money and approval were ready tomorrow, “we would put shovels in the dirt tomorrow,” Kujath said.
“I’m just trying to walk as a pastor walks in steps of faith. We’re going to build this debt-free, which is an enormous undertaking,” he said. “I have no idea how it’s going to happen.”