LUMBERTON — Money to complete construction of long-awaited barns and stalls at the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Events Center is included in a state budget that only needs Gov. Pat McCrory’s signature.
The last $165,000 to build two barns containing 50 stalls each was included in the budget approved by the state Senate and the House last week.
The barns and stalls are being constructed by Driven Contractors LLC of Maxton at a cost of $365,167. The contract, however, does not provide for electrical installation.
“This appropriation will allow the project to be completed and to meet its intended purpose of 100 stalls,” Rep. Charles Graham, a Democrat representing Robeson County, said in a statement. “I made a commitment several months ago to work with the local Horse Council, the state Horse Council, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, local stakeholders, and donors to see this project completed. This project will bring tax revenue, as well as economic and recreational opportunities, to the citizens of Robeson County. It will be a facility of which we can all be proud.”
The barns and stalls will be constructed on about 2.5 acres adjacent to the agricultural center’s pavilion, the multi-events center that opened three years ago off U.S. 74 just outside of Lumberton. There are currently 113 stalls on the property, but not near the pavilion.
Earlier this year, Kent Yelverton, director of the N.C Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Property and Construction Division, said the barns and stalls should be open by fall. Yelverton could not be reached to comment for this story.
According to Graham, the state money allocated in the budget proposal will be used to pay for electricity to be added to the project.
Sue Gray, executive director of the N.C. Horse Council, said Thursday that she looking forward to the ribbon-cutting of the new stalls.
The Horse Council for at least the past three years has been raising money for the project by getting donors to pay to have their names placed on individual stalls. Gray said that a little more than $75,000 has been raised and that there are sponsors for almost all of the 100 stalls.
“These stalls will absolutely help the economy of Robeson County,” Gray said. “Now more than one-day shows will be able to be held at the arena. With each horse that is in a show there will be two to four people accompanying it. These people stay in the local hotels, eat at the restaurants and buy gas at local stations.”
Cecil Jackson, vice president of the Borderbelt Horseman’s Association, agreed with Gray that the stalls will provide for longer shows that will boost the area’s economy. Jackson said that eventually he hopes more stalls can be added.
Other needs to make the facility one of top quality for horse shows are a public address system and bleachers.
“But this is definitely a start,” he said “We are really excited about the stalls … . We hope that this will not just benefit us (horseman’s association), but also benefit all of the people in Robeson County.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.