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Final details on the way for Expo Center

 - This rendering shows what the Enumclaw Expo Center could look like. Carrying out the plan would take years of work and millions of dollars.
— image credit: This rendering shows what the Enumclaw Expo Center could look like. Carrying out the plan would take years of work and millions of dollars.

The city of Enumclaw envisions itself as an equestrian mecca, eventually attracting hosrses and owners to shows of all sizes and types.

And at the heart of that plan is the anticipated makeover of the Enumclaw Expo Center, a spot of land with huge potential. And, as all realize, potential doesn’t come cheap.

City staff and members of the Enumclaw City Council were recently briefed on what was termed a “mid-project update.” The PowerPoint presentation was offered by representatives from Otak and gh2, consulting groups brought on board to lead the city through the development process.

The lofty plans presented bear only casual resemblance to the current Expo Center grounds. Otak plans show a venue dominated by a large, indoor equestrian arena with seating for 3,000 spectators, along with a covered arena that is now the site of the rodeo grounds. Plans call for additional barns and a retail area that would be home to commercial vendors.

The goal, council members were told, “is to provide a great deal of site flexibility.”

The planned transformation – which is viewed as a process that could take many years and many millions of dollars – is headed by Larry Fetter, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Now that Otak has hosted an open house and briefed council, Fetter said, “they’re going to move to project completion.” That means firming up conceptual plans, tightening up cost projections and helping the city identify possible sources of funding.

When it comes to money, one thing is clear: the cash will likely come from outside the city.

“The council has no interest in long-term debt,” Fetter said, noting that Enumclaw’s elected officials have made it clear that other services will not suffer for Expo Center upgrades. “The council really wants the property to be self-sustaining.”

Fetter said financial options range from sponsorships by private enterprise to “economic development” money from state or federal sources. Mayor John Wise has scheduled a January meeting with the governor, Fetter said, and will be pleading Enumclaw’s case for state cash.

The phasing of the project will likely depend upon the funding flow, Fetter said. Otak has noted that the logical first step would be development of the covered arena in the middle of the grounds, but that’s the most costly element. Another strategy, he said, would be to finish the smaller, covered arena first, an option that calls for “significantly less money.”

The bottom line, he said, is “none of the phases are cheap.”

Reach Kevin Hanson at khanson@courierherald.com or 360-802-8205.

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