4-Hers look forward to new arena

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— With the completion of one indoor horse facility and another one in the works, the question will not be "if," but rather "where" in Hayden area youngsters can demonstrate their horsemanship and livestock know-how.

The Fair Board last November launched an effort to raise funds to build an indoor facility on the fairgrounds to replace the current outdoor horse arena, but Hayden resident Keith Barnett decided to take a chance and proceed with his own facility.

He brought Hayden its first indoor horse facility in May, in response to a need he saw in the community for a public arena.

The 120-by-200 foot 2 Socks arena can be seen from U.S. Highway 40 east of Hayden.

When a second arena comes to town, however, the challenge will lie in determining how to maximize both facilities, 4-H agent Jay Whaley said.

"We want to be able to use both," Whaley said. "There's no reason why we can't do that."

Weather customarily dictates when and if participants compete and spectators watch events at the Routt County Fair.

An indoor arena on the fairgrounds would allow the 4-H children to show their animals and participate in team and individual events, regardless of the weather.

Cassidy Kurtz, 4-H president, knows a lot about putting events on hold because of the elements.

"We've been rained out a few times," she said. "The weather doesn't always cooperate with what we want to do."

Now a senior at Steamboat Springs High School, Kurtz is one of several older 4-H members who looked forward to an indoor arena for years.

When the Fair Board began raising funds for the arena, 4-H members decided to contribute to the effort.

"We thought that if the Fair Board was going to raise money on behalf of us, it was important that we help them out," Kurtz said.

The 4-H members plan to raise $50,000. They have raised almost $37,000, much of which came from a raffle on a new Dodge Dakota truck.

The county commissioners last Tuesday accepted a bid of $558,000 to build the indoor facility at the fairgrounds.

If the arena opens in August, Kurtz and the other seniors will use it for only one county fair.

They wish circumstances could be different, she said, but they realize their work for a new facility ensures a brighter future for younger 4-H participants.

"Sure, we would have loved to have it sooner, but a lot of us see it as improving things for the younger kids," Kurtz said.

Sophomore Tucker Lauthan said he and his 4-H friends look forward to using the indoor facility as a year-round venue.

"It's pretty important that we get to show out of the rain and the heat of the day," he said. "It's a place to ride during the winter, too."

Lauthan said he and other 4-H members are aware of Barnett's arena, but they need an on-site facility during the county fair.

Barnett said he volunteers his arena to the public because he wants 2 Socks to become a valued asset to the community.

Barnett and his wife, Diane, took out a second mortgage on their home, as did his parents, to finance the cost of the $300,000 facility.

"We took a risk," he said. "We're hoping that organizations who aren't using it yet

or don't know that much

about it would get on board with us."

Barnett said he doesn't know what to expect when his facility, the only public arena within a 90-mile radius, gets some company from the fairgrounds.

"It's anybody's guess what might happen," Barnett said.

Whaley said he foresees an opportunity in the two arenas' future proximity to one another.

The town would be able to host large horse shows by splitting the day between two facilities, he said.

Lack of space usually requires shows to begin at

8 a.m. and run until 11 p.m. in order to include all of the events, Whaley said.

"We could do a lot more if we were able to run competitions simultaneously," he said.

With almost $222,000 in hand, and another $300,000 anticipated in energy impact funds, the Fair Board is well on its way to seeing construction on the new arena move ahead, he said.

In the meantime, Barnett plans to continue building up a local following by selling

memberships and encouraging

organizations to take advantage of an indoor environment

in which to train during the winter.

"I've invested a lot in this place," he said.

"I'm going to do my best to see that it succeeds."

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