Improvements planned for rodeo arena in Honokaa

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file photo Levi Higa and Ty Kauai compete in the team roping event during the 58th Hawaii Saddle Club Memorial Weekend Rodeo in May 2014 at the Honokaa Rodeo Arena.

Honokaa Rodeo Arena will close from Nov. 14-Jan. 14 so improvements to the facility can be made.

County Parks and Recreation staff will remove all of the compacted dirt and material from inside the arena and replace it with drain material and red cinder, according to the county. The red cinder base also will help mitigate dust released beyond the property lines of the arena.

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“This has been a long time coming,” said Parks and Recreation Director Roxcie Waltjen. “The users of the arena, along with the neighbors in the neighborhood — it will benefit everyone. It will be a better facility. We are very happy we are able to do this at this time.”

Waltjen said the work will be done in-house, and estimates put the cost of the improvements at about $71,000.

Deputy Director Maurice Messina said the county previously installed an automatic sprinkler system that runs three times a day to control the dust, which “does a great job,” but when there are heavy downpours, the current surface gets muddy.

“We’re not going to remove the sprinklers,” he said. “We want to make sure the real close neighbors don’t have any dust coming onto their property.”

The red cinder base is solid, and when it rains, the arena will be able to drain quickly. The red cinder method was successfully used this year in the rodeo arena at the Panaewa Equestrian Complex.

According to Messina, the parks department has been “dealing with this issue for a while. It was actually our parks maintenance superintendent who came up with the idea and found the money in his budget to make this happen.”

Linda Hunt, president of the Hawaii Quarter Horse Association, said her organization has used the arena since the early 1980s. The Hawaii Quarter Horse Youth Association also uses the facility.

The impending upgrades are “something that really needed to happen,” she said.

The county improved the facility in the past, but didn’t improve the footing, or the riding surface.

“Changes are good,” Hunt said, noting the county previously invested money in covered bleachers, better bathrooms and handicapped parking, but “didn’t put any money into where the cowboys actually are, and that’s in the arena.”

You could have the nicest arena in the world, she said, “but if the footing isn’t good, people won’t come.”

With the upcoming work, Hunt said the HQHA will have to meet elsewhere — temporarily.

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“But we’re looking forward to the improvements,” she said. “It’s not like we’re going to go away. We’ll be back as soon as the arena’s back.”

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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