Horse riders ready to share Eagle pavilion |

Horse riders ready to share Eagle pavilion

Kathy Heicher
Eagle Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Theo Stroomer/Enterprise file photoA group of citizens is setting up a schedule so rodeos and other equestrian events can share the Eagle Fairgrounds pavilion with soccer players and others.

EAGLE, Colorado ” The horses are ready to share space with soccer players.

Better communication and scheduling appear to be resolving the brouhaha over use of the pavilion at the Eagle County Fairgrounds.

Over the past month representatives of the county, the Western Eagle County recreation district, the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce and the horse enthusiasts has found a compromise that will allow greater use of the pavilion, while assuring adequate time for horse-related events and activities.

“We never wanted it all … we just wanted to be able to share it,” says Dan Eckert of Eagle, whose daughters are active in 4-H horse programs.

Eckert says use of the pavilion, particularly during the winter, lets local kids keep their competitive edge in horse shows and rodeos.

The committee, seeking to increase use of the facility for the next season, first set the dates for key horse events, such as monthly Little Britches Rodeos. Tim Cochrane of the Eagle Chamber of Commerce says other events will then be scheduled on dates that don’t conflict, and that allow time for preparing the floor surface.

The county has also simplified its system for collecting fees from equestrians.

Steve Russell, director of the Western Eagle County recreation district, said horses will remain the primary users of the facility.

“When they have dead time, we will look at events that correlate to the way the pavilion is set up,” he said.

Possible events include an elite bull riding competition next spring, indoor archery, horseshoe competitions and other sports.

Last month, local equestrians were riled by rumors that the county intended to put a hard surface floor in the arena, and change the primary use of the building from horse-riding to indoor soccer and simliar activities.

Those rumors were not true, says Eagle County Facilities Maintenance Director Tom Johnson.

“Getting the horses out was never discussed,” he says. Rather, he explains, the county is looking for ways to encourage more and greater use of the $4.5 million facility.

The pavilion was built in 2006, following input from a citizen group, with the intent of creating a multi-use facility. Bookings during 2007 were dominated by riding groups, gymkhanas, 4-H clubs, roping clubs, Little Britches rodeos and barrel races.

There were also a handful of special events including a dog show, “Extreme Fight Night,” a healing arts festival, a holiday crafts show and a fundraiser for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Rental fees vary from $20 per day for 4-H clubs to as much as $1,475 rental for the several-day Rock Mountain Horse Expo.

According to county records, rental fee revenues generated by the pavilion in 2007 totaled just over $18,000.

That amount doesn’t pay the bills said Johnson, adding he is confident the rental fees for 2008 will cover the cost of utilities for the year.

“It was never our intention that the revenues should cover (the cost of operating the facility) 100 percent. It was built for the community,” he points out. “As long as we do better every year, that’s our goal.”

While the facility is busy during cold weather months, there are few bookings during the summer, Johnson said.

The floor surface is one of the challenges in switching uses of the facility. Changing the dirt floor from the softer, tilled dirt surface that equestrians prefer to a hard-packed surface for other events requires a couple of days and two to three employees.

Eckert says the committee will continue to meet and keep people informed of future plans.

“We’re willing to work together,” Eckert said. “It’s going to be a good ending for the equine people.”

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