City OKs fairgrounds agreement

By Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald

Enumclaw's desire to assume ownership of the King County Fairgrounds, plus several other parcels of land, moved one step closer to reality last week.

City Council members voted unanimously to accept the fairgrounds after two public hearings produced not a single objection from the public.

The only hurdle standing between Enumclaw and ownership of the fairgrounds was a positive vote from the King County Council. That move was expected to come Monday afternoon, during a regular meeting of the nine-member council.

The city anticipates taking possession of the entire fairgrounds property, which includes the Pete's Pool section, which takes in the historic fieldhouse and nearby football field. The football facility is home to both the Enumclaw High Hornets and the Wolverines youth football program.

Also part of the proposed transaction are Farmers Park, Sportsmans Park and two empty parcels of land adjacent to the fairgrounds.

As part of the transaction, the county is willing to give the city $2 million. The money is to be used for capital improvements to the fairgrounds property and ease the transition to city ownership.

The city has come to view the fairgrounds property as the key to its economic future.

Seeking a way to entice tourists, and their expendable dollars, to Enumclaw, the city hired a consultant to develop a tourism and marketing plan. The ensuing recommendation was that Enumclaw take advantage of its existing penchant for horses and promote itself as a regional destination for all things equine. The cornerstone of that plan was the idea of turning the fairgrounds into the top equestrian center in the Pacific Northwest.

The local equine community has jumped on the proposal and lobbied heavily at open houses and public hearings.

The city has made it clear it views the fairgrounds as the key to future economic success, even if an ongoing feasibility study determines the equestrian concept is the wrong fit for Enumclaw. If plans go an entirely different direction, city officials have said, the fairgrounds will still be the primary piece to the economic puzzle.

King County Executive Ron Sims and his staff have supported the land transfer, with one stipulation: the city will make the fairgrounds available for 16 days each year, to allow continued operation of the King County Fair.

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