LUMBERTON — Although the official opening of the new multi-purpose pavilion at the N.C. Southeastern Agricultural Center/Farmers Market takes place Tuesday, there is still one important element missing at the facility because of a lack of funding — horse stalls.
But the money could be on the way from two local governments and the Golden LEAF Foundation.
Cecil Jackson, vice president of the Borderbelt Horseman’s Association, said stalls will eventually have to be constructed at the facility if it is to completely provide for the needs of equestrian events.
“The stalls are really needed so that horse shows can run for more than one day,” Jackson said. “I hope by the end of 2012 there will be 200 stalls. Hopefully there will eventually be as many as 400.”
Jackson said the stalls would encourage more entries in the shows from equestrian enthusiasts from out of the region.
“For every horse you can get at the complex you can expect an average of three people to be with it,” he said. “When you consider all the money these people will spend, it will open some eyes to what equestrian events can do to boost a community’s economy.”
Kent Yelverton, director of the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Property and Construction, said last week that currently no definite funding for stalls has been obtained. He said that the state General Assembly’s original $3.7 million allotment for construction, and the state Golden LEAF Foundation’s $1.29 million contribution to the project, did not include money for stalls.
“Currently, we’re in the process of looking for funds,” Yelverton said. “I know there are a lot of local groups discussing helping fund some stalls.”
Yelverton said the cost of providing stalls would depend on the kind of building they are housed in. He said the most economical would probably be a pre-engineered, open-sided metal building with 100 stalls placed inside.
“For 100 stalls, that would probably cost about $500,000 to $600,000,” he said.
Yelverton agrees with Jackson that the horse stalls are key to the pavilion providing all the needs of equestrian events and generating the greatest amount of revenue from these events.
“Renting the stalls will provide additional revenue,” said Yelverton, whose department managed the construction of the state-owned and operated pavilion. “Stalls will also add to the pavilion’s ability to be an economic benefit to the region. More people with horses will come from farther away and spend multiple nights in the community.”
Dan Gerlach, president of the Golden LEAF Foundation, said Friday that his foundation two years ago put $300,000 aside to be used for stalls at the pavilion as long as two conditions were met. The conditions that must be met, he said, include the Department of Agriculture applying for the funds, and Robeson County and the city of Lumberton coming up with $50,000 each as a match for the grant.
“I’m not committing my board to anything, but if the two requirements are met and an application is filed, I think it will get good consideration,” Gerlach said.
Interim County Manager Ricky Harris said county officials have already approved their $50,000 share. The city of Lumberton will officially approve its $50,000 match when the City Council meets Monday, according to City Manager Wayne Horne.
State Sen. Michael Walters, who has been busy helping in the search for funding, calls the addition of stalls at the pavilion a “crucial part” for completing the construction project that is expected to boost the region’s economy.
‘This (pavilion) is an intricate part for job creation,” he said.
Walters pointed to the facility’s ability to draw tourists.
“This will not just serve agri-tourism, but will give us a chance to showcase other attractions,” he said. “More people will visit our hotels, restaurants and other businesses.”
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6119 or email@example.com.