YAKIMA - The end of March will mark the beginning stages of a new venture for the Central Washington State fairgrounds. Curtis King, past chairman of the Central Washington State Fair Association board, said the organization will begin work on a study to determine how and where an equestrian center could fit in at the fairgrounds.
The study is being funded through a combination of fair association funds and a $25,000 Supporting Investments in Economic Development (SIED) grant. Earlier this week, Yakima County commissioners approved an agreement between the fair association and the county for the SIED grant.
King said the fair association has hired a company it has worked with before on long range plans, to come in and conduct the study. He said the people conducting the study should arrive March 27, although he noted there are people already in the area talking to different equine groups, gathering information on their needs.
King said the study will include a look at the entire fairgrounds with the main emphasis being to find a proper location for an equestrian center. King said the study will also look at how the fair association can work to update existing buildings at the fairgrounds.
As for how the fair association came to focus on the addition of an equestrian center at the Yakima fairgrounds, King said it all started with a study that was done two years ago by a Minnesota firm. He said the study took a look at the demise of the horse racing industry and what could be done with the 70 acres that at one time made up the horse track, but is now referred to as the "back lot."
The results of that study showed that one of the uses for the acreage could be to serve as the location of a covered riding arena.
"That caught our eye," King said. "Because it was something other people had mentioned."
King said he is hoping the current study will result in a recommendation on the size of such a facility, as well as the location.
According to King, the study will likely take two to three months to complete. He explained that once the results of the study come back, it will give the fair association some parameters to look at, which will help to determine what the cost of building and operating an equestrian facility would likely be.
King said the fair association has a source of income that could help get construction on such a facility underway. He is also hopeful that the funding the association does have could be used to leverage additional funds, as well as help when it comes to applying for grants. King said the fair association has an agreement with Yakima County in regards to the construction of the Yakima Valley Justice Center on its property.
"It will at least give as a good starting point," King said of the funds from the county.
King said any improvements made to the fairgrounds are important to the community, noting that anything that helps draw more people to the area is good.
He explained that an equestrian center, like the one being looked at, could give Yakima the opportunity to host different regional events.
"That would draw people in," King said.