News

County money offered

But it would take action by city to improve fairgrounds

By Kevin Hanson

The Courier-Herald

King County has included money in its 2006 budget for improvements to the King County Fairgrounds, but it appears getting that money spent might be a tricky proposition.

The county budget, which was unanimously approved by the council, includes $350,000 earmarked for upgrades to the football field and the roof of the Pete's Pool stadium. The money was included at the urging of Councilman Steve Hammond, who will represent the Enumclaw area on the council until the end of the year.

“I'm proud to help ensure that the fairground facilities are upgraded to meet the needs of southeast King County,” Hammond said. “Sports programs are an important part of any child's school experience and our children deserve good playing fields and a stadium with a functioning roof.”

The Pete's Pool football field is owned by the county and used by both the Enumclaw High Hornets and the youth Wolverine football program.

The county budget contains a proviso, however, that will require some joint cooperation if the money is to be spent. Hammond reported the $350,000 is to be spent only if the fairgrounds property is turned over to the city of Enumclaw before the end of 2006; further, the county money is to be made available only if the city and Enumclaw School District agree to match the $350,000.

That's where it gets interesting, Hammond points out. He pushed for language that doesn't require an all-cash outlay. The proviso in the budget states that the $350,000 could also come in the form of in-kind contributions. That covers everything from staff time to volunteer labor.

When Hammond issued a press release about the funding and its stipulations, it caught Enumclaw City Administrator Mark Bauer by surprise.

The city's 2006 budget has not been adopted, but a draft version of the spending plan includes no money for fairgrounds improvements and makes no mention of taking ownership of the facility.

It's not that the city has no interest in the property, however. A recently-completed tourism and marketing study, commissioned by the city, suggested Enumclaw should transform itself into the equestrian center of the Pacific Northwest. A major element of that plan was to turn the fairgrounds into an equestrian center complete with arenas and quarters for merchants.

The City Council has not embraced the tourism plan and won't be taking action of any sort until after the first of the year, Bauer said. Also, he said, the city would not be inclined to take ownership of a facility that currently operates at a loss, he said.

The proposition has generated some excitement within Enumclaw High School's athletic department.

In a hand-written note, Athletic Director Tim Tubbs said the high school and school district “are encouraged by the provision to ‘kick off' a joint project to improve the stadium facility at the fairgrounds.”

Tubbs wrote that it “has been a struggle lately to play our football games at the fairgrounds.” Pete's Pool is rare in the region because it sports natural grass; also, the locker room facilities are substandard when compared with facilities used by other schools in the area.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com.

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