Waller County Fair Board has created a state-of-the-art facility
HEMPSTEAD, Texas – The concrete forms were poured months ago, and giant metal rafters were put into place to offer the rigidity needed for the newly covered arena at the Waller County Fairgrounds.
They’re not the only support system for the new construction; the Waller County Fair Board has received a great deal of reinforcement for this endeavor, from members of the community to financial backing from major contributors.
“This building is a $2.3 million project, and almost $2 million is from private donors thus far,” said Dustin Standley, a longtime fair board member, former president and a key organizer for the annual exposition. “I think by the time we’re done, we’re going to fund this thing completely, and I’m sure we will have an arena with very little cost to the fair board in turn for something this community can use year-round.
“We have amazing elite sponsors that bought 21 executive boxes to help with fundraising, and we have several partners in building that have donated anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000. We’ve put money in certain spots where it’s going to provide us the best benefit for our needs.”
The covered arena will be first put into use during this year’s Waller County Fair and Rodeo, set for Saturday, Sept. 30-Saturday, Oct. 7, at the fairgrounds in Hempstead. The idea for creating such a cathedral was instigated more than a decade ago by forward-thinking members of the board who envisioned a complex that could house events, sustain growth and create board revenue 52 weeks a year.
It will not only be the featured home of the PRCA rodeo, which begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5-Saturday, Oct. 7, but it will be available for a variety of equine competitions, roping’s, bull ridings and other rodeo-related activities. Just as it has done with virtually every other project on the fairgrounds in recent years, the fair board is creating a top-of-the-line complex. During the design phase of the project, special efforts were put in place for future expansion of livestock shows and all yearly fair events with our growing community.
“We are going to have a state-of-the-art arena,” said Paul Shollar, vice president of the Waller County Fair Board. “The lighting can be used in a variety of ways, and we can utilize spotlights as we need, undergrounds sprinkles and more than 30 holding pens, etc. A lot of stuff we put into it is going to be cutting-edge. We don’t want to just be a covered arena. The list just keeps going. All the stuff we’re doing is to try to make it better and more efficient for our renters.”
The objective when the project originated is the same as it is now that it’s about to be opened. There are an additional 750 bleacher seats, 10 additional box seats for any business or family, and the executive suites, which will grow to 25 or 26 once all the work is complete.
In addition, the arena will feature Americans with Disability Act ramps (with appropriate rails) in place and ADA seating for a dozen people in such need. Because the arena is covered and not enclosed, air will be able to flow through the complex and will be aided in distribution by six Big Ass Fans anchored at roof level.
“The ceiling is elevated and is super tall, so the wind restriction is very minimal,” said Standley, who emphasized the complex is being created to not only increase opportunities for its use at the fairgrounds but for users at all levels to find comfort. “We want it to be a comfortable experience for the fans, for the contestants, for the livestock and for everybody that is there working on the event, whether it’s during our fair and rodeo or during another event throughout the year.
“For years, we’ve taken a lot of pride in our hospitality, and another feature we’ve added is a Cowboy & Cowgirl Facility, which was donated to us by one of our corporate sponsors, CRC – Barns, Arenas & Hangars. That facility has air conditioning, a built-in bar and lights. It’s going to allow a lot more flexibility to do a lot more events in there, make it homier for the contestants and their families during our fair.”
Everything was taken into consideration during the rebuilding phase of the arena. Sightlines from every seat should be spectacular, and a two-story press box has been put in place; one level is for announcers and others involved in event production, while there is also a media room to allow for coverage of events, while also serving as dressing room and concession during other events throughout the year.
On the competition floor, the fair board has worked with Texas manufacturer Priefert to outfit the arena with new bucking chutes and timed-event boxes and chutes.
“Priefert has been a great partner with us, and we decided that we wanted to bring in the new chutes to make sure we had the best products necessary for an arena of this stature,” Shollar said. “We also wanted to make the arena continue to look brand new when we open the doors.”
The covered arena will offer a new look – and a new production value – to events at the Waller County Fairgrounds for years to come, and the first glimpse of it all will happen very soon.
“We want everyone who comes to enjoy this facility and enjoy what we’ll be able to do with it,” Standley said. “We wanted this to be the best covered arena in southeast Texas, and I think we’re going to have it.”