Plans set in motion to get new pavilion at Civic Center in use
Bruce Alsobrook | News-Telegram Editor

Jan. 19, 2007 - A walkway looks to be the next goal to reach in the effort to get a new pavilion at Hopkins County Regional Civic Center up and running.

Hopkins County elected officials met with the Civic Center Board, members of the Hopkins County Extension Equine Committee and other interested parties Thursday for a work session regarding the pavilion.

Deborah Balkcom, who serves on the equine committee, was quick to get to the heart of the matter.

"It seems that people don't really understand what the purpose of the pavilion was," she said. 

She said the final plan was to build enough stalls for horses to hold multiple-day events, bringing more dollars to the local economy in the form of overnight stays at motels, meals at restaurants and other purchases by visitors.

"That's what it was built for," she said.

Precinct 1 County Commissioner Beth Wisenbaker said there had been discussions of making the pavilion — which is open on three sides — into a place for spectator events after Pansy Bell, who markets the Civic Center, received inquiries about its availability.

But making the pavilion suitable for crowds would take a lot of money. Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap said a rough estimate for bleachers was $25,000, and bringing the facility to meet standard building codes to accommodate crowds would likely mean bigger bathrooms.

And city building inspectors won't approve the building as a place for people to assemble without a fire suppression system — i.e., sprinklers — and designated entryways and exitways.

"The city needs a designated egress in case that building catches fire," Wisenbaker said, a statement that brought giggles from practically everyone there. "I know and you know that thing's got three open sides to it, but it comes back to liability in a lawsuit-happy society."

On top of that, a fire suppression system would be costly — the figure $100,000 was bandied about.

Instead, the groups turned their attention to getting the pavilion ready to host horse-related events, which supporters said could bring in lots of tourism dollars. 

As one person said after the meeting, horse owners don't think of their equines as livestock, but more like a part of the family, and they want comfortable shelters for their horses.

Several pointed out that the real attraction for events is the climate controlled Civic Center arena, but also said horses aren't stalled in the showplace at shows.

"The way you make the money for this facility is renting stalls and selling shavings [for the stalls]," said Will Woods, adding that the horses want a quiet place to rest. "That was the whole purpose of this."

About 220 stalls have been purchased for the pavilion, and another 70 or so can be repaired to make the facility suitable to host large-scale, mult-day events. The only other sticking point is a walkway between the pavilion and the Civic Center Arena.

Millsap presented a rough estimate of $25,000 for a concrete walkway, but was told that might not be the best solution.

"Concrete and horses with shoes are not a good mix," Balckom said. 

But Civic Center Board member Talley Bell — as in Bell Concrete — offered a solution, saying dairy farmers long ago were faced with that same problem.

"You can make concrete with a finish that is rough enough that traction won't be a problem for horses," he said.

Bell said he would contact contractors to get estimates on a concrete walkway. Millsap asked that the Civic Center Board look into ways to pay for the walkway.

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