After about a year of weather-related delays, Bulloch County's multipurpose arena will soon be open for business.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for 11 a.m. April 23, said Mike Rollins, director of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department.
"We won't be open for business that day, but we will be by May 1," said Billy Springer, arena manager.
Already, there are exciting events booked for the Langston Chapel Road facility, with "a lot of interest" being shown for future events, he said.
Rollins said crews have been working nonstop to complete the arena, which was originally expected to open last spring. Wet, rainy weather continuously delayed landscaping and other aspects of construction, but the final touches are in sight. This week, "seeding, sprigging and sodding" will take place, he said.
By the week of the ribbon cutting, the arena will be used for a "test run" when a small team roping event, with only "30 to 50 horses and about 25 people," try the arena on for size, Springer said.
The arena already has at least three definite events booked, even before the county has begun advertising its opening.
On May 17–19, JX2 Productions plans a jackpot team roping event and expects to return for another in August. And July 8–10, the Horseman's Quarter Horse Association has a show event booked.
Other possibilities for events this year include a renaissance festival, a Savannah Kennel Club dog show and a boat show, Springer said.
The arena, although connected to the Bulloch County Center for Agriculture complex, is more than just an agricultural venue. While it is true that the majority of events may be equestrian or relating to livestock, the facility was intentionally designed to be able to accommodate auto shows, flower shows, concerts, expositions and other non-agricultural uses, he said,
"We are wrapping it up very fast," he said. "Soon we will be ready to go."
The arena has been in planning for 20 years, with Bulloch County voters approving a Special Purpose Local Option Sales in 1999 to fund the agricultural complex. The office building was constructed, but plans for the arena were placed on a back burner.
Billy Hickman, an avid supporter of the arena project who was a charter member of the steering committee, said on Monday that he is thrilled to see the arena finally opening.
The dream began almost 20 years ago when plans were drawn out "on a paper napkin," he said. "That dream has come a long way."
Springer said most events will be open to the public without admission, but some events such as concerts and festivals may have an entry fee.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.