A lot has changed on the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center grounds since the project’s first building opened one year ago.
Where dozens of acres of dirt once surrounded the event center is now a large grassy commons area, paths, lighting, three partially finished livestock barns and the foundation of a rodeo arena. The barns and arena are on track to be completed in time for the Umatilla County Fair and Farm-City Pro Rodeo in August, according to contractors.
“We’re moving forward,” John Eckhardt of Knerr Construction told the EOTEC board Friday. “You can see a lot of progress on site.”
Eckhardt said the bathroom footings were supposed to be poured later in the day, and the company also planned to erect the remaining steel for the largest barn on Friday.
Carl Hendon of Hendon Construction said they expected to get bleachers going up in the rodeo arena next week. He said the company could not have done it without the help of excellent subcontractors who have exceeded expectations, and board member Kim Puzey remarked that the quality of the concrete work was “stunning.”
Mike Kay of the rodeo board thanked the contractors for their work, noting that when they came in the project was “quite frankly in a challenging spot” amid concerns that it would not be ready in time for the 2017 fair and rodeo.
“They took and merged everything together seamlessly,” he said. “It would not have happened without these two companies, so thank you.”
While construction is nearing completion, a question mark still remains about who will run the completed facility. The board had previously presented a plan to the Hermiston City Council and Umatilla County commissioners for a general manager supervising an administrative assistant and maintenance contract, but the project’s two partners said they wanted to see more information about cost and salary comparisons with similar positions in the area before making a final decision. EOTEC board chair Byron Smith, who is also Hermiston’s city manager, said he has scheduled a combined meeting with the board and commission for June 1 to go over that information.
Business manager Heather Cannell said she was seeing an increase in groups booking the event center for daytime meetings.
“It’s kind of exciting to see our days fill up,” she said.
On Friday the board also approved a marketing grant of $2,000 from the tourism promotion assessment funds to the Hermiston Horse Sale Extravaganza. Randy Hull said he had been approached by Pendleton about moving the sale there, but he planned to move the event from the old fairgrounds up to EOTEC.
Contact Jade McDowell at email@example.com or 541-564-4536.