Putting a concrete floor in the TRAC arena stirred up much concern in the local horse community.
TRAC — the Trade, Recreation and Agricultural Center — was built two decades ago in Pasco, in part, to provide a venue for equine and livestock events.
But TRAC’s fate never has been certain, as many struggle to understand that public facilities are not created to make a profit. They are designed to provide a focal point that will bring people and their dollars to the community to boost the local economy.
Internal discussions have been going on for months about replacing the dirt in the arena with concrete to better accommodate trade shows and expositions. The Home Builders Association of the Tri-Cities proposed the conversion to concrete, saying it was needed for its annual three-day home and garden show. Potential TRAC events in April that would use the arena were turned away because of the prospect of renovating the floor at that time.
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Once the word got out to the agriculture and horse community, the response was fierce. A concrete floor — even with dirt on top for events — is not ideal, and can cause serious injuries to horses. Many organizers of barrel races and team ropings said they would take their events elsewhere if that were to happen. Some bemoaned the lack of reverence given to the community which largely helped get TRAC built in the first place.
If you want to change the mission of TRAC, show the community why that would be a prudent move. Don’t, in the words of Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck, pit users of the facility against each other, making home builders seem more important than horse owners.
TRAC couldn’t even tell renters what the cost would be to move the dirt in and out of the facility, and what that would add to the price tag of a facility that is already financially out of reach for some agricultural events. And it wouldn’t just be equine events that would feel the impact. Motorsports need dirt as do other users — dirt that would have to be hauled in and out for events and stored in the interim.
After a passionate appearance by several members of the horse community at a recent meeting, county commissioners say they are not putting concrete in the arena.
Instead, commissioners will direct staff to take a look at TRAC operations and ways to attract more business — without a permanent hard surface in the arena. Franklin County — which manages the facility — will consider other options to make the arena more attractive for a variety of users, including a new portable floor that would cover the dirt, a possible expansion and an updated business plan.
Commissioners understand that the facility is not designed to be a money maker but would be thrilled if it broke even on an annual basis. Franklin County and the city of Pasco are on the hook to split the annual shortfall, which was $480,000 last year.
Even though the floor surface did not come to a formal vote, commissioners are now on the record saying that the dirt is staying. The community is tired of the uncertainty around TRAC, with a variety of proposals floated for changing the arena to something else over the years, as well as the drama over annual financial losses.
It’s time to build a brighter future for TRAC, one that is based on an analysis of facts and figures, takes into account those who helped bring the facility to life, and balances the needs of the community with sound fiscal operations.