OMAK â State and local officials will join lots of kids and rodeo fans at a ribbon-cutting for Omak’s new nearly $5.4 million arena at 7 p.m. Thursday at Eastside Park.
The short event comes on the first day of the four-day Omak Stampede and World Famous Suicide Race, sandwiched between Wrangler’s Kids Night and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo.
“We’re ready to go, after many, many hours of hard work,” said Sarah Grooms, manager of the Omak Stampede.
Omak Mayor Cindy Gagne said it’s appropriate to open the new arena just in time for the 76th Annual Omak Stampede.
“It really is our community’s signature event,” she said, and is supported by so many entities, including the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation.
The arena project won $4 million in funding from the state Legislature two years ago, and funding commitments from Okanogan County.
In addition to the state’s contribution, the city of Omak took out a $900,000 bond, which it expects to repay using arena proceeds, admissions and concessions taxes and hotel-motel tax funds committed by Okanogan County and the Economic Alliance, said Omak City Administrator Ralph Malone. The Economic Alliance oversees the county’s economic development.
Malone said the city also put in $400,000 from insurance proceeds when the roof from the old arena was torn down.
Officials say the Omak Stampede Association also contributed $55,000 and hundreds of hours of volunteer time. Local businesses donated labor and materials.
The new, metal arena â with four rows of captain’s chairs in front and covered bleachers with backs â replaces an old wooden structure too old to repair, and, some said, a liability to the town.
Gagne said the new arena is already attracting new events.
“It really is going to be a multi-activity facility,” she said.
Grooms, however, is focused on this Thursday through Sunday, when tens of thousands of people will pour into Omak for the Stampede’s rodeo, Indian Encampment and Suicide Race. The race features a field of 20 horses and riders who plunge down a mountain-steep hill and swim across the Okanogan River before galloping to the finish line inside the arena.
For the rodeo, “Ticket sales are well beyond where we normally are,” Grooms said on Tuesday. She said she expects Saturday’s rodeo will sell out soon.
No tickets are necessary to watch the American Indian dancing and drumming competitions, or traditional stick games, a form of Indian gambling.