Fairgrounds seeking some fee increases for 2024
A rider with the Columbia Basin Barrel Racing Club in one of the pavillions at the Grant County Fairgrounds in 2022. The fairgrounds is proposing to raise fees for the use of the pavilions, as well as a minimum stall requirement for equestrian events, for 2024, according to Fairgrounds Director Jim McKiernan.
A selection of proposed Grant County Fairgrounds fee changes for 2024. Source: Jim McKiernan.
Staff Writer | June 1, 2023 1:20 AM
MOSES LAKE — Grant County Fairgrounds Director Jim McKiernan is proposing a new fee structure for the Grant County Fairgrounds next year that will set minimum stall usage requirements for horse events and raise some fees for commercial and animal-related events.
“We’re raising some rates slightly,” McKiernan said. “These are fairly small increases, and we’ve decreased the fee for the rodeo arena to get more people to use that.”
Under the proposal, individual and group admission rates to the county fair will remain unchanged in 2024. What will change are the fees charged to organizations using the fairgrounds, with slight increases to reflect increased cleaning costs and to cover the installation of new equipment and facilities.
However, McKiernan is also recommending that equestrian groups now pay for a minimum of 100 stalls, although the fee would be adjusted for organizations that stage more than one event per year at the fairgrounds. He is also seeking to increase the stall cleaning fee to $18 per stall from the current $15, noting that labor costs are increasing.
In a letter outlining the proposed fee increases, McKiernan wrote that in 2023 the fairgrounds is expected to need around $300,000 of taxpayer funds, out of a total budget of slightly more than $2 million.
“This is the closest the facility has ever come to breaking even. The improvements are paying off in terms of more events wanting to use the facility,” he wrote.
“We’re working hard to break even and not cost the taxpayers anything,” McKiernan said.
As a result of many of the improvements, McKiernan said the Grant County Fairgrounds has become one of the premier equestrian facilities in the state, and more large groups — 500 horses or more — are requesting to use the facility. Currently, between the Ardell Pavilion, the Harwood Pavilion and the rodeo grounds, the fairgrounds can host three small events, two medium-sized events or one large event at a time.
It’s one reason McKiernan is proposing to reduce the rodeo arena fee in 2024 to $895 from the current $1,200 for events that don’t charge admission.
Grant County Commissioner Rob Jones said he wants to be fair to local fairgrounds users, but as a taxpayer who is not a horse owner and has little interest in equestrian events, Jones also wants to make sure taxpayers aren’t picking up too much of the tab for small events. Jones noted that the stall minimum will not apply to youth events under McKiernan’s proposal; Future Farmers of America, 4-H and Grange equine events would still be free.
“There are only 11 events that have over 100 horses,” Jones said. “We respect the attempt to break even, but we want to be kind to local users.”
Jones said he has asked for a meeting between the commissioners, McKiernan and fairgrounds users to get a sense of opinions on the proposed fee increases before the commissioners take a vote on the proposal.
Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at email@example.com