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Investment in Fairgrounds improvements increases usage

With an overall 27 percent increase in usage, the renovations of the Fairgrounds & Events Center seem to have paid off.

In 2003 the center was used 853 times, according to a recent county report. Last year that number jumped to 1,087. Fair and special event managers Frank Abbott and Lauran Erickson are confident the renovations in the last couple of years played a vital role in the increase in use.

“One of the keys to the growing success of the facility is the renovations in 2004 and 2005 that transformed the fairgrounds and Pavilion into a tournament-quality, indoor/outdoor multi-sport complex,” Abbott said. “We’ve even included event camping sites and an environmentally sensitive parking lot, which we feel are unique attributes of our facility.”

The greatest increase in usage, however, has been at the Pavilion which has shown a considerable increase of 132 percent in the number of days it was used from 2003 to 2005.

“Prior to 2004 we didn’t have a lot of sports tournaments,” Abbott said. “Now the Pavilion literally gets used 278 days a year. That’s why it was built.”

The facility is now host to a variety of tournaments ranging from volleyball and wrestling to basketball and rugby.

“We want to get lacrosse in,” he said. “We even have a table tennis tournament coming up.”

The increased use of the entire center includes facility/field rentals including BlueJackets baseball games, Olympic High School baseball and softball, and West Side Hoops basketball practices; programs such as senior walking, Mom and Me Baseball and indoor preschool play park; and a wide range of special events including graduation ceremonies, the West Sound Wedding Expo and the Rotary’s RAGS Auction.

“(The increase) is what we hoped for and now the realization is certainly coming true,” Abbott said.

It seems the center also is what the community hoped for.

“Everyone I talk to say they’re grateful we have this facility in Kitsap County,” he added.

Besides the adequate parking and concessions, it is the relationship between maintenance staff and Erickson and himself that makes the Pavilion work, he said.

“It’s all about the turnover of events,” Abbott said.

Other areas of the center also have showed increased numbers including the ballfields which showed an increase of 29 percent after being remodeled in 2004.

Funding for the improvements was made possible by the Kitsap Public Facilities District and stemmed from a sales tax rebate from the state which was then used to issue bonds, according to the county.

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