New arena should ‘spur interest’ in year-round equestrian programs at the fairgrounds

By Michelle Beahm

Kitsap News Group

BREMERTON — About two years ago, Ron Gascoyne requested a face-to-face meeting with Kitsap County Parks Director Jim Dunwiddie — one that turned out to be “really odd,” the director recalled.

“He goes, ‘Hey, I have this great idea of putting a cover over the arena of the lower bowl in the Fairgrounds,’ ” Dunwiddie said. “ ‘It’s going to cost about a half million dollars and, oh, by the way, I have found someone willing to make the donation of a half million dollars.’ Usually you sit there and someone says ‘Hey, I have this great idea, go find the money.’ It was really odd when he said ‘I’ve got this great idea’ and ‘I’m going to make it happen.’ ”

Gascoyne has been involved in various levels of 4-H for years, volunteers with the fair’s mini-horse program and owns Seven Wells Ranch in Seabeck. According to a press release from the fairgrounds, Gascoyne “saw the need for local 4-H clubs and equestrian organizations to have a facility that could be used year-round.

“There were no large, covered arenas like that in the whole county or the neighboring ones,” Gascoyne said.

It’s been about two years, but that great idea, discussed at that “unique meeting,” has finally come to fruition.

It may sound like a simple concept, but plenty of planning and effort went into the process of building it; Dunwiddie said Gascoyne did most of that work.

According to the press release, “not only did Mr. Gascoyne find funding, he also donated his time to manage the project, sought out a cost-efficient roof kit with pre-engineered plans and oversaw hiring of a contractor.” He also found a nonprofit to be the financial manager of the project (Kitsap Community Foundation) and donations from local businesses, such as Viking Fence in Gorst, who donated the fencing around the arena.

Opening July 30, the Kitsap County Fairgrounds will be home to the Harry and Jayne Boand Equestrian Arena, named for the people who donated the necessary funds, which will be available year-round for equestrian events.

“It’s going to expand the use of the arena. Being able to have equestrian activities in the rain is something that usually doesn’t happen,” Dunwiddie said.

“We’re able to probably extend the equestrian season probably five months out of the year.”

What was once a basic outdoor arena is now “large enough to host horse shows and equestrian competitions all year,” according to a press release.

“In addition to a new 33,800-square-foot roof over the arena, fencing, lighting, stormwater management and signage were improved, and the electrical system upgraded, thanks to donations and deep discounts from local businesses and individuals,” the release states. “A new announcer’s booth was also installed.”

Dunwiddie said Kitsap County does not and will not be running any equestrian programs, but will instead be permitting the site out. Currently, the county is in talks with a nonprofit equestrian organization to manage and operate the arena for 11 months out of the year — during the 12th month, August, control will revert back to the county for the Kitsap County Fair.

“There’s been a lot of organizations associated with the rodeo that want to start using it for practices,” Dunwiddie said. “I know Mr. Gascoyne has a mini-horse show associated with the dedication of the arena (on July 30).”

A ribbon-cutting for the Harry and Jayne Boand Equestrian Arena will take place at noon on July 30 at the north end of the fairgrounds during a break in the Pre-Fair Miniature Horse Show, which opens at 10 a.m. After that, the first events in the new arena will be a large open-class program associated with the fair.

“Hopefully it will spur some interest,” Dunwiddie said.