A possible new development near the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport was revealed on Friday, and it includes an 8,000-seat dirt arena with the potential to host rodeo competitions.

This revelation comes just about two weeks before Lubbock residents are scheduled to start voting in the May 5 municipal election on whether the city should abandon the Lubbock Municipal Auditorium and Coliseum. Part of the opposition in the vote to abandon the facilities is because there's not a definite replacement facility for dirt events such as the ABC Pro Rodeo. Texas Tech, which would get the facilities if the city abandoned them, says they intend to demolish the structures. Tech officials said this won't happen until after the 2019 rodeo, but after that is an unknown.

Development on this proposed new arena in North Lubbock hasn't started and it's not a guarantee — but it's now a possibility.

What was showcased on Friday was an Agrarian Community Project designed by UrbanTech of the Texas Tech's College of Architecture. The possible development is called Regis Park and it includes an equestrian K-12 charter school, horse trails, multifamily housing, commercial properties, and the dirt arena. Dominion Real Estate Partners are leading the development.

The Regis Park project also features a long-awaited hotel near the airport.

Robert Dwyer, managing partner, said Dominion Real Estate purchased the property in 2007 and sought out UrbanTech for fresh ideas on what to do with the land. The land totals about 288 acres, which for comparison is close to North Overton's 325 acres.

David Driskill of UrbanTech said this has been a decade-long research project. He said the development is based around equestrian activities and had been designed with a horse arena prior to this discussion about the auditorium and coliseum coming to light. Once that happened, Driskill said architects made some changes for it to accommodate the ABC Rodeo.

“Now, we really have a complete mix-use community, which is agrarian with horse trails all the way through it," Driskill said. "It’s sustainable in that we want to hold two inches of water on the site. Around the playa lake, backing off a safe, sustainable distance, is where the most expensive housing will be. There also will be a full range of retail, multifamily housing, lower-end housing and middle-end housing.”

Developers declined to identify the operator involved with the charter school, but said they are based out of Phoenix, just like the developers.

"They have committed to it," Dwyer said of the charter school.

Driskill said the charter school approached the developers about the possibility of locating a school on the site. The school officials were interested in Lubbock because of Texas Tech and its equestrian programs.

Once the charter school approached the developers, Driskill said, it became a centerpiece of the development and started to make the residential development make more sense.

"They don't need an 8,000-seat equestrian center, but the city of Lubbock needs an 8,000-seat equestrian center," Driskill said. This is all private development, he said.

Because the charter school officials would like to start school in Lubbock in August of 2020, Dwyer said developers are aiming for that date. Asked specifically about whether that timeline would include the dirt arena, Dwyer said they hope to have it available on the same timeline.

"It is a very aggressive timeline," Dwyer said.

Richard Freeman, another Dominion Real Estate executive, said it is hard to say how much it will cost to complete the work for the new development, but he estimated $50 million, before Donna Currey Barnes, of WESTAR Commercial Realty, said she thought it would be closer to $60 million.

Dwyer said he believes infrastructure for the development will cost $28 million.  He said Dominion is looking at a variety of funding sources, including non-bank lenders and tax incentive financing.

Lubbock Councilman Juan Chadis said this is something that's needed in north and east Lubbock.

"This is the catalyst we've all been waiting for," Chadis said. "The word 'neglect' has been used before. It's a thing of the past now. This is big for north and east Lubbock. The arena: No better timing."

Driskill said the project will need city support. The city has, he said for the first time, approved retail and residential construction in the industrial zone.

Roy Jones is an advisor to the ABC Rodeo Committee, and was featured in a news release saying this could be a viable replacement for dirt events.

“I’ve been working with Robert (Dwyer) and David (Driskill) to make sure the 8,000-seat arena and multi-use facility might work for the ABC Rodeo, which is an important aspect for the community,” he said in the news release. "Lubbock hasn’t built a new equestrian facility in years, but cities like Midland, Odessa and Amarillo have... It’s a great opportunity for Lubbock to have something different, and the location to the airport is going to be a really nice addition.”

Rodeo is important, Jones said, but this new dirt arena could also allow for team roping competitions, cut horse associations, ranch rodeos and equestrian events like hunter jumper to come to Lubbock. With 8,000 seats, outside pens, an indoor warm-up arena and 400 stalls, the proposed facility will help the City of Lubbock, he said.

Media outlets had been teased about an announcement coming late this week about a dirt event replacement, and this announcement appears to be it.

Although officials with the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce said this was new news to them.

As the A-J reported, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce announced earlier this week that discussions are in place within the business community for a facility that will satisfy dirt floor events. The Regis Park project revealed on Friday was not part of those discussions the Chamber said are going on elsewhere in the business community, according to Eddie McBride, president and CEO of the Chamber. But McBride said this should show members of the community are adamant about finding a replacement.

"This is one of the efforts going on in Lubbock to create a new facility that will satisfy both equestrian interests, as well as livestock interests, as well as other events," McBride said. "This is a great start to show people the opportunity that once we do abandon the auditorium and coliseum, many more of these opportunities will come to fruition."

McBride said there are lots of different efforts to find a replacement, being led by several different groups. He said there are several efforts going on right now, buy most of those potential projects won't be fully analyzed or vetted until the vote is final.