The Cleveland County Fair Board has asked for a new arena for 20 years, but board members say they’re starting to get serious.

“We knew that we had a new jail being built and funds would be tight,” said Cleveland County Fair Board President Steve Mann, but “we’ve been pursuing it hard the last two years.”

With the completion of the F. DeWayne Beggs Detention Center, county budget board members said the project could receive more consideration.

“They request, every year, a new outdoor arena,” said County Clerk Tammy Howard, who also serves on the budget board. “We’re kind of considering it. We’ve got this jail project done, so now we can move onto other projects.”

The budget board will consider whether to more than double the fair board’s funding — from $340,000 for Fiscal Year 2012 to a requested $757,510 for FY 2013 — to generate a $400,000 seed to start the project.

Mann said it’s time to get the project under way.

“There’s a need in the county and surrounding areas — actually a statewide need — for a centrally located arena that we can’t have in our inside arena right now,” Mann said. “Our arena’s not large enough for barrel racing and roping — more of the rodeo events. It’s not long enough, wide enough or tall enough.”

Mann said planning and research — some of which would be funded by the $400,000 — remains in the preliminary stages. Some of the next steps would be to complete architectural studies of drainage and the potential construction sites, which lie to the west and north of the current arena on the county fairgrounds.

Fair board members are looking primarily at pursuing an outdoor arena to complement the current indoor facility. This would help make the arenas — especially the current one, which generally needs to be rented a year in advance — more accessible for community events, Mann said.

General funds to be announced: The budget board is awaiting an announcement from the excise board before further budgetary discussions continue.

At its 8:30 a.m. Monday meeting in Suite 200 of the county office building, the excise board will announce a final number on the county’s available general funds.

District 3 Commissioner and budget board member Rusty Sullivan said that once the budget board is provided with that number, it will weigh the arena with other county needs.

“They’ve asked for it a long time, and it’s something we need to give some hard consideration to,” Sullivan said. “We need to really look at it to see if we need to expend those dollars on that project.”

Although he said he hasn’t taken a firm stance on the project, Sullivan said it will receive fair consideration.

“There’s critical things that have to be funded and there’s things we’d like to fund to improve our county,” Sullivan said. “With our limited assets, we’ve got to see how far we can make that budget stretch.

“I wish I had a magic wand and could give everybody everything they request. We’ve got to make some decisions on what things are funded.”

The arena and other funding requests are to be discussed at the next soon-to-be-scheduled special budget board meeting.

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