E-Days preview: Mending a mud problem at the Baca County Fair

Muddy rodeo
A ranch rodeo team struggles to complete their event due to the muddy conditions of the Baca County Fair rodeo arena.

Ten out of the last 11 years, it’s rained on the day of the Baca County Fair in Springfield, Colorado. Drainage at the rodeo arena is dysfunctional, resulting in flooding and lots of mud – hardly the ideal environment for a horse competition.

As part of a three-phase project, a Senior Design team in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is redesigning the rodeo arena, implementing updated drainage and facilities to help draw crowds back to the county fair.

The first Baca County rodeo was held in 1957 when the fairgrounds were built, and the county hasn’t done any renovations since. Partnering with the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering Senior Design program has allowed the county to establish a master plan for proposed renovations. They can also more effectively apply for grants to help fund the final project.

“Senior Design is the perfect option for both parties,” said Margo McInnis, civil engineering student. “It gives us experience, and the county a renovation plan without a large financial commitment.”

Let it drain

The students’ proposed changes include regrading the site to fix the drainage issue, and designing a new arena layout. Their design includes a new building that will serve as men’s and women’s restrooms for participants, a secretary’s office, and an updated announcer’s booth. With the slippery conditions throughout the last decade, many potential rodeo participants have bypassed the Baca County fair and opted for other venues. County commissioners hope that through the proposed improvements, participation will branch out from the local population.

“Rodeo people are picky. If you know an arena is going to be slippery, it’s dangerous for you and your horse,” said McInnis.

Agricultural outreach

McInnis, who participated in rodeo at her high school in Michigan, understands the impact of her team’s project on a small town like Springfield. Her teammate Bailey Kraich, who’s majoring in environmental engineering, has been involved in 4H since high school. Their agricultural roots run deep, and they saw the opportunity to leverage their project for outreach.

Rodeo arena Senior Design team
The rodeo arena Senior Design team at the Baca County fairgrounds with their 4H volunteers.

“We contacted some local 4H advisors, and they sent some kids out to help us do testing,” said Kraich. “They’re all stoked about dirt now.”

The whole team is passionate about helping the Baca County Fair get back on its feet (or hooves, rather), and through Senior Design, has come to understand the importance of understanding their client’s needs. Building relationships with county commissioners, and with each other, has been foundational to the experience.

“Outreach has been part of the plan for our final design,” said Kraich. “Because we’re working as extensions of CSU.”

The team will present their progress at the E-Days Senior Design Showcase, April 12, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Lory Student Center and on the Plaza.