LUMBERTON — The decision by the Robeson County Board of Commissioners to provide $67,000 toward construction of a horse barn with stalls at the Southeast North Carolina Agricultural Events Center may be the catalyst needed to push the project to the finish line.
“Each step leads to a new step,” Kent Yelverton, the director of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s Property and Construction Division, said Tuesday, the day after the decision by the commissioners. “Hopefully folks will see what the commissioners have done and will come forward and help get this project fully funded.
About $108,000 is still needed for the $590,000 project. The county commissioners found the $67,000 to use for the stall construction in a $200,000 contingency fund that is part of its current budget.
Plans are to construct a barn with 100 stalls to support shows at the pavilion, a multi-events center that opened two years ago off U.S. 74 just outside of Lumberton. Supporters contend that the barn and stalls will boost the economic impact of the center’s pavilion by accommodating larger, multi-day horse shows.
According to Yelverton, the county has already contributed $50,000 toward the stalls, with Lumberton having allocated up to $30,000 for materials used in site work, as well as providing no limit on labor and equipment to be used for site work. He said that all money for the project must come from donations, since the state has allocated no money for stall construction.
“I’m thrilled we are getting closer to getting these stalls,” said Sue Gray, executive director of the state Horse Council. “It’s going to happen … I think the trigger is going to be pulled very quickly and this project will be done. I’m thinking maybe a lot of the issues that still need solving will be done by the end of next month.”
The state Horse Council and state Horse Council Foundation have raised more than $400,000 in private donations.
“We’re excited about this project,” Gray said. “This center is going to be of the major equine centers in the state.”
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.
“I think all of us are real proud to have worked real hard on this,” said Jackson, who has been working toward the establishment of a high-quality equestrian showplace in Robeson County for 23 years. “I think we are all pleased and hope the community is pleased.”
Yelverton has said that 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 and the economic impact will be substantially more. There will absolutely be a payback on this project.”