Frequently asked questions about EOTEC

Staff photo by Kathy AneyTwo workmen install a railing along the top edge of the grandstands Saturday at the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center arena. The facility's first event, the Umatilla County Fair, will kick off in just over a week.

Thousands of Umatilla County residents are about to get their first look at the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center as the project hosts its first Umatilla County Fair and Farm-City Pro Rodeo Aug. 8-12. As rumors swirl and confusion abounds ahead of the change to a new venue, here are the answers to a few frequently asked questions about EOTEC:

Who owns EOTEC?

Umatilla County and the city of Hermiston are co-owners of EOTEC. They have each appointed representatives to a seven-member board known as the EOTEC Authority that is making decisions on construction and operations, and that board plans to hire a general manager to handle day-to-day business. But the city council and county commission have the ultimate oversight of and liability for the project.

Who paid for EOTEC to be built?

Most of EOTEC’s funds came from the government. Roughly $8.5 million for EOTEC came from state and federal grants, including a $6.4 million Oregon Lottery grant. Another $3 million in seed money came from Umatilla County selling the former fairgrounds on Orchard Avenue to Hermiston School District, and $450,000 came from the Umatilla County Fair moving fund. The city of Hermiston donated the 75 acres EOTEC is built on, valued at $1.5 million at the time, and paid to extend sewer and water infrastructure to the edge of the property. More than $2 million came from private donors, and the Port of Umatilla contributed $150,000.

When it became clear that private fundraising would not be enough to finish the project, the county and city each donated an additional $600,000 for construction. The city of Hermiston also agreed to a $1 million bond that is being paid back through a $1 per room per night fee that hoteliers are assessing on their customers.

The Farm-City Pro Rodeo is footing the bill for a $500,000 mercantile building near the arena.

Where will the money come from to operate EOTEC once it is finished?

Umatilla County and the city of Hermiston each plan to contribute about $75,000 toward EOTEC’s operations in 2017-2018, but hope that as the facility becomes more well-known it will eventually become self-sustaining through event revenue and the $10,000-per-year leases paid by the Umatilla County Fair and Farm-City Pro Rodeo. The facility’s marketing budget comes from a Tourism Promotion Assessment that local hotels and RV parks have added to their prices.

How do I get to EOTEC?

EOTEC is located at 1705 E. Airport Road. Although there is access off Ott Road, during fair week vehicles will be blocked from using the Ott Road entrance and must enter and exit off Airport Road. If you’re coming from Hermiston, travel south of town on Highway 395 and turn left on East Airport Road just after the Hermiston Veterinary Clinic. If you’re coming from Pendleton, head north on Highway 395 from Stanfield and turn right on East Airport Road just after the Best Western hotel. From either direction, look for the green road sign and don’t turn down the similarly named Airport Way, which leads to a dead end at the Hermiston Municipal Airport.

How much parking is available?

The facility has 604 paved parking spots in front of the event center. During fair week there will also be approximately 2,656 overflow spots on grass and dirt, as well as “park and ride” spots around Hermiston with shuttles to the fairgrounds. At EOTEC, parking will cost $5.

Are there enough restroom facilities for fair week?

There are restrooms in the barns and the event center, as well as a large ADA-compliant restroom building located between the fairgrounds and rodeo arena with enough stalls to meet state requirements during peak fair attendance without bringing in additional portable restrooms.

Is there any shade?

Not much. You can get out of the sun — and into the air conditioning! — at the event center, where exhibits that were previously spread throughout Thompson Hall and the senior center will be displayed. There will also be shade in the animal barns, and some food vendors will likely provide canopies. But the trees donated by the Rotary Club won’t be planted until the fair and rodeo are over — and the rodeo arena isn’t covered, so consider wearing a hat.

Will the old fairgrounds be used for anything during fair week?

No. Hermiston School District now has full ownership of the former fairgrounds and everything from fairs past — animals, vendors, carnival rides, exhibits, contests, concert and rodeo — will be located at EOTEC.

What will go on at EOTEC when it’s not being used for the fair and rodeo?

EOTEC’s event center — which features meeting rooms, a board room, exhibition hall and commercial kitchen — can be rented year-round for weddings, quinceañeras, conferences, banquets and more. The EOTEC Authority is also hoping to market other parts of the facility for everything from horse sales to RV shows. Some availability is restricted, however, by the leases with the fair and rodeo. The rodeo’s lease states that EOTEC must get approval from the rodeo board for any third-party event held in the rodeo arena 60 days before and 30 days after the Farm-City Pro Rodeo, and the fair’s lease states that EOTEC must get permission from the fair board for hosting any concerts 60 days before or 30 days after the Umatilla County Fair.

Will all of the construction be done in time for this year’s fair and rodeo?

That’s a good question. The EOTEC board says yes, but contractors and volunteers are still putting in long hours each day on site, so no one will know for sure until the sun rises on Aug. 8.

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Contact Jade McDowell at jmcdowell@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.

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