The Pendleton Round-Up will have a new face soon, as work has begun to clear the way for a plaza that will feature a wider sidewalk and two ticket booths set back from Southwest Court Avenue.
"We did surveys and one of the things that kept coming up was to get rid of that prison-looking fence," said Round-Up Director Tim Hawkins, who is co-chairing with Mike Thorne the committee tasked with making the improvements. "What precipitated this was we applied to the Oregon Department of Transportation for a transportation enhancement grant. They denied it, but we kept after them and they finally gave us a $250,000 grant."
ODOT wanted Round-Up to move people off Court Avenue and into the park, and that's what the plan does. There will be a new ticket booth set into the west side of the grounds near the Roy Raley Room and the existing ticket booth on the east side of the grounds will be replaced with one further to the north. The souvenir booth also will be demolished and a new and larger one will be built a little to the west of its current location.
The new buildings will look true to the period when Round-Up began, Hawkins said. They'll feature board-and-batten construction and will have metal roofing. Round-Up President Randy Severe said the committee and board of directors want this renovation to last.
"Now we're 100 years old and we'd like the Round-Up to last another hundred," Severe said. "We don't want to have to do this too often. We want it to be something we can all be proud of."
"We're replacing the fence with a really nice one with two wrought iron gates and brick pilasters," Hawkins said. A blacksmith in Walla Walla is designing the wrought iron work. On the west side of the grounds, a brick wall will replace the wrought iron to give the Roy Raley Room a more private area to host outdoor events.
The plaza on the east side of the Round-Up Grounds also will feature Round-Up's logo, the bucking horse, set high above the crowds.
"We've commissioned the bronze artist, Austin Barton, and it should be ready by 2010," Hawkins said. "You might have seen his piece, 'Attitude Adjustment,' at Hamley's. We decided to try him and see what he said, and he was very excited to do it."
Barton's sculptures are extremely popular, and his work is in downtown Joseph. He was raised in the Snake River and Wallowa valleys and most of his work features scenes from the Western way of life.
The city of Pendleton will demolish the existing buildings, and both Round-Up directors and the city will work together to create a new more welcoming entrance to the Round-Up grounds.
"The sidewalk will be wider and will have brick ribbons running through it," Hawkins said.
In addition, the project will move all overhead power lines and cable wires underground.
The ODOT funds only cover a small portion of the $1.1 million project. Round-Up has set aside money for it and present and past Round-Up directors have purchased the brick pilasters. Businesses have purchased sponsorship of the two gates. In addition, help has been forthcoming from matching fund grants, individuals and commercial enterprises.
"We'll have plaques recognizing all of them," he said.
Much of the work will be done in time for this year's rodeo, and the face lift will be finished by 2010 for Round-Up's 100th anniversary. Hawkins stressed this project is just the first step in a hoped-for improvement to the structure itself. What appears to be phase one has kept the committee busy, he said.
"It's a tremendous amount of work, but it's worth it," he said. "We're going to dress it up. It's going to be really impressive."