Work is set to begin to build a top for Waller County Fair and Rodeo arena
HEMPSTEAD, Texas – A little more than a decade ago, a select few that were part of the Waller County Fair Association had an unlikely vision for the future of the Waller County Fairgrounds.
It’s coming to fruition, and the next step in the process will begin just as soon as this year’s Waller County Fair and Rodeo is complete; the expo runs Sept. 24-Oct. 1 in Hempstead.
“As soon as the fair is finished this year, we’re going to start tearing everything down at the rodeo arena so we can start to build our covered arena,” said Jason Neel, chairman of the Waller County Fair Board’s capital improvements committee. “Deconstruction starts next month, and the building arrives in December.
“The construction for the new building starts in January. We plan to be complete with the building before our next fair.”
With that, the fair association is opening the door for more activities to take place in Hempstead, a community of nearly 5,400 in a county that boasts of almost 60,000 residents. That means there will be more livestock shows, more horse shows, more ropings and other equine-related events and more bull ridings. The covered arena allows for any events in any type of weather, whether they’re demolition derbies, tractor pulls, lawnmower races or concerts.
That’s just the tip of the iceburg.
“With the arena being covered, that will help out with the amount of events we will be able to book throughout the year rain or shine,” Neel said. “We hope to become more competitive in the market to draw events, which helps with the publicity and the crowds we can get.
“It will be nice to be able to book events without people being concerned about the weather.”
The process is huge, but it’s not the first time the fair board has handled this type of endeavor. In recent years, there have been improvements around the fairgrounds, including new restrooms and remodeling done at Edmonds Hall and the show barn.
“The community response on the capital improvements we’ve done so far is that we’ve had a ton more rental,” said Matt Hyatt, the fair board’s president. “We’re putting nice weddings in Edmonds Hall. We’ve had lots of quinceaneras. With the new addition in the entertainment pavilion, we have fixed the roof. Even if it’s raining, you can still have a nice party there.”
The key is having as many of the complex’s buildings available for use 365 days a year. It’s all come about because of the support from sponsors and the community.
“We have secured nearly all of our sponsorships to fund this covered arena with a few spots left to fill,” Neel said. “We have secured our agreement with the bank, and they are on board to support us with this addition to the fair and rodeo.”
Most of the funding will come from sponsorships, and the fair association has been creative in finding ways to cover the costs of the project. The major funding sources will receive suites in the new building for their support.
“We’ve got 15 spots sold so far,” Hyatt said. “This thing is going to be paid for by sponsors. We have incredible sponsors and incredible crowds that come to our fair and rodeo every year. We couldn’t have done this with out them.”
There are still boxes remaining for anyone interested in being part of the covered rodeo arena, and board members are excited about the potential of filling all of those suites in time. In addition to creating protection from potential weather, the building will also allow for a comfortable complex for those attending the events and competitors alike.
“We have designed the building to where the eaves will allow air flow into it,” Neel said. “Natural air flow where it doesn’t get trapped in the design of the building helps make things more comfortable. We’re also looking at putting in some large fans to help with that. Just getting the air moving is a big deal.”
That’s what renters, attendees and fairgoers will see when the building is complete before the 2023 Waller County Fair and Rodeo. This year’s event will be the last time the fair will feature an all-outdoor rodeo and other specialty events during the eight-day exposition.
There will be a slight reduction in the number of rentals that the fairgrounds receives for the rodeo arena while construction is under way, but there is a contingency plan in place. Once the show barn was remodeled a few years ago, it is now operational for some events that can utilize a smaller arena.
“This is a huge undertaking,” Hyatt said. “We’ve got a great crew, and while this is a little daunting, it’s also very exciting. This is going to be a huge addition to what we have. I think it’s going to be huge for the community as well. It’s going to open it up for a lot of events we’ve never had before.
“Ten years ago, it was a pipe dream of ours to have a two-arena fairgrounds. That’s where we’re going to be with the show barn we have now and the covered arena we’ll have a year from now. The idea for all this was scratched out on a napkin 10 years ago, and now we are here. We had a committed group of people that wanted this done, and it’s all happening because of the donors that have come forward.”