LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners is considering adding $66,000 to its 2014-15 fiscal budget to help fund the construction of a horse barn with 100 stalls at the Southeast North Carolina Agricultural Events Center.
Commissioner David Edge said the board has made a “commitment” to the project, and he expects the money will be approved as a special allocation in the budget that takes effect July 1. Edge and other supporters of the project contend the barn and stalls will boost the economic impact of the center’s pavilion by accommodating larger horse shows.
The pavilion, built two years ago and located off U.S. 74 just outside of Lumberton, is a 54,000-square-foot steel building with the capacity to serve as a site for multiple events, including equestrian shows, livestock and dog shows, concerts, and private parties. It was constructed with a $3.7 million from the N.C. General Assembly in 2008, a $1.2 million grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation, and other funding sources, including Robeson County and the city of Lumberton.
According to Kent Yelverton, the director of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s Property and Construction Division, the cost of building the barn and 100 stalls is estimated at $590,000. He said there is no state money allocated for the project.
Yelverton said that so far just under $415,000 has been raised. The money has come from a variety of sources, he said, including individuals, Robeson County and the city of Lumberton, travel and tourism organizations, the Golden LEAF Foundation, the Borderbelt Horseman’s Association, and the North Carolina Horse Council and Foundation.
The Lumberton City Council recently agreed to provide up to $30,000 worth of equipment, materials and labor for site work.
Although no time frame has been been set for the project, Yelverton said Wednesday that he feels like “we will get there soon.”
“We can’t go out for contract until we have all of the funds in hand,” he said. “When we do, we will move forward.”
According to Yelverton, the pavilion has been “very successful” during its first two years.
“There have been a lot of bookings,” he said. “Now the next step is to support the facility (with the barn and stalls). More
people will be drawn (to horse shows) and the economic impact will be substantially more. There will absolutely be a payback on this project.”
Cecil Jackson, the vice president of the Borderbelt Horseman’s Association, said that the barn and stalls are needed to bring to the pavilion the “big three- and four-day” horse shows.
Jackson said studies show that there are three people for every horse participating in a show. These people, he said, spend money for such things as lodging, gasoline and food.
“Three-day horse shows have brought into a county over $3 milli0n,” he said.
Jackson said that the local goal is to have the stalls available by mid-September when the annual three-day “Cowboy Up” will be held at the pavilion. Yelverton, however, said that time frame is impossible to meet.
“Reality is that’s not feasible even if we had all of the money we need for the project today,” he said. “Our goal (state) is to move as soon as possible. We can’t recruit shows for a given time based on what facilities might be available.”
Robeson County Manager Ricky Harris said that the commissioners will consider the request for the $66,000 special appropriation when they hold their next budget work session on June 2. Harris said the request is not included in the proposed budget he recently presented to the board.