Twenty years of wear and tear has taken a toll on the stall barn at Claremore Expo. Now, the city is backing capital improvements to the tune of $535,000 and Claremore's horse community couldn't be more excited.
Angie Wagstaff said she's been using the stall barn at the Claremore Expo Center for years and knows firsthand the barn is in need of some repairs.
"So, I started a petition a year or so ago," she said. "And started having conversations with county commissioners…and eventually Tanya Andrews of the Expo. I started asking 'how do we give this little barn some love and get her up to snuff so we can have some bigger shows here?'"
Various equestrian groups and associations met to share their concerns, discuss budget and talk about what the process would entail.
"Flooring, stalls, bathrooms and electricity," she said. "those were the biggest concerns. Things that over the years haven't gotten the love they needed."
With the city councils recent passage of their next fiscal year budget, they received word that $535,000 was headed for their beloved barn.
"The horse community is so excited about this. It went like wildfire when we got the email city council had approved the budget. It was a nice outcome," Wagstaff said.
Andrews said the Expo opened in December of 1999 so the barn is approaching its 20-year milestone.
"In the stall barn, things like power and electricity were an after-thought," Andrews explained. "After the sale barn was built they went back in and put the infrastructure needed for utilities. When you have power placed in after all your equipment, like stalls and floors, it tends to render you helpless to do any type of repairs on any of those items. To do what needs to be done you have to take the power out, the stalls out, just to get to the floors of the stall barn."
As they approach the improvements, Andrew said safety of animals, exhibitors and guests is the top priority.
"Working with city council, we all discussed it needed upgrades to make it a more user-friendly and safer facility. So, there will be a lot of things that take place including: All power will be removed, all permanent stalls will be removed, power will be installed as it should be, and then we'll do new flooring in the stall barn. We're going to put in portable stalls so we can take them out for future repair or work on flooring."
New exhaust fans and new heaters are also on the list.
"The exhaust fans don't work, and haven't in a while. And because of how they were installed, with the power, it's next to impossible to get to them because of the stall," Andrews said, adding that the $535,000 budget allocation will also cover the intensive labor it will take to get the work done.
She said the process will be a lengthy one that will involve working with the engineer and planning department after undergoing the bid process to find a general contractor.
Andrews said this is all while being mindful of an event schedule that typically runs through fall.
"So, I would guess we're looking at a late November, early December start," she said.
She said she's excited to see these upgrades come to fruition.
"It's important, number one, to make it a safer environment for all involved. It's an upgraded facility for current user groups and it will allow us to hopefully recruit new user groups. The expo center is an economic driver for the city of Claremore, bringing in these types of shows from all around brings additional dollars to the community. People will stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, buy gas and run in to buy a Coke. As an economic driver we continue to look at new programs we can bring to the community," Andrews said. "It's important that community conversations are key. It's helpful that we have great relationships with our user groups to tell us what they need and we tell them what we can and can't do as a city and hopefully we generate ideas together of how we can accomplish a bigger goal."
Wagstaff also stressed the importance of the investment.
"In Tulsa, about 15-years ago their county commissioners looked at the equestrian business long and hard. Right now Tulsa is the mecca for a lot of world championship horse shows that bring in over $72 million to Tulsa. And with Claremore being so close it would be wonderful to have a venue where we could do national shows or area shows, which would be the next step to going to a world championship show," she said. "I want to congratulate the city of Claremore for being proactive and getting behind this. We are very, very excited about it….And I think Will Rogers would have loved it."