A three-stage renovation plan is set to begin early next year for the Earl Warren Showgrounds equestrian center.
The initial improvements will prepare the facility to host multiple equestrian events in 2020, according to an announcement from the Santa Barbara Equine Assistance and Evacuation Team. The showgrounds will remain open during the renovations and will maintain its full schedule of community events.
“The facility was built in the ’50s. It has aged and been well used during that time, particularly during the recent evacuations,” said showgrounds board member Mary Rose.
The showgrounds is a state facility but has not received enough state funding over the years to keep the stables and the arenas up to date. Ms. Rose said.
“It’s old and needs to be made safer and more modern. Think of it like an old running track made of decomposed granite versus a modern turf track. It’s what’s expected in today’s equestrian events.”
During the first stage, SB Equine Evac will purchase needed equipment, including a water truck and a new drag, to maintain the arena. The second phase will address the footing in the Mountain View and warm-up arenas, and the third stage will provide upgrades to as many as three barns.
“And this is just the beginning. There is much more that needs to be done but this is what the (Showgrounds) board has approved so far,” said Kathy O’Connor, president of SB Equine Evac.
These improvements are the minimum necessary to bring the big equestrian shows back to Santa Barbara, Ms. O’Connor said.
“They want to come here, every show that comes to Santa Barbara loves it here. We just need to address these footing issues,” she said.
SB Equine Evac will establish an endowment for continued maintenance of the arena footing for 5 years.
The renovations are expected to improve the condition of the grounds and ensure Earl Warren becomes financially sustainable in the long-term.
“The first phase is expected to begin shortly after the first of the new year,” said Ms. Rose.
The plans still must be formally approved by the showgrounds board.
Funding for the first phase has already been secured from private donors and more are expected to commit to the project once they see progress on the renovations.
Donations will be received by Santa Barbara Equine Assistance and Evacuation Team Inc, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
Ms. Rose added that the renovations will make conditions safer for animals that need to take shelter at the showgrounds during natural disasters or other emergencies.
“We had over 1,200 animals with us during the Thomas Fire and debris flow, and not just horses. We had everything from a longhorn steer and cows to chickens and goats. This is going to allow us to better serve them,” said Ms. Rose.
SB Equine Evac board member Karen Christensen will manage the project with showgrounds CEO Ben Sprague.
An equestrian advisory committee and showgrounds staff will also provide input on the project.
“If there’s a time to donate, it’s now. This is an important resource for the community and those of us who are passionate about these (equine) events,” said Ms. O’Connor.
To donate, visit http://www.sbequineevac.org/about_us.
Checks should be made payable to “Santa Barbara Equine Assistance & Evacuation Team, Inc” with the memo being “Showgrounds Equestrian Restoration Fund,” and sent to P.O. Box 60535, Santa Barbara, CA 93160.