‘Do It All’ in Deschutes, Oregon
22 Oct, 2014By: Peter Francesconi
An expo center located on a fairgrounds will certainly strike sports organizers as a great place for equestrian and rodeo events. Deschutes Fair and Expo Center, however, has planners thinking outside the show ring.
This multi-purpose arena located in Redmond, Oregon, can host everything from wrestling to motor sports, from gymnastics to basketball, and much more. In fact, not only does the Deschutes Fair and Expo Center have surprises at every turn, but its Central Oregon location has its own share of delights in store for event owners and organizers, athletes, families and fans.
“Our slogan is, ‘We really can do it all!’” says Roxia Thornton Todoroff, director of sales for the Deschutes Fair and Expo Center. “Sports events organizers will be amazed at everything we have to offer at our facility. But that’s not all. This part of the state is amazing as well.”
Central Oregon, east of the Cascade Mountains, is a unique area of the country, not at all like the rainy areas on the west side of the Cascades closer to the Pacific. In fact, this high-desert, at 3,000 feet, gets about 300 days of sunshine a year, with annual precipitation under 10 inches—much of it in the form of snow in the winter.
“We’re the sunny side of the state,” Todoroff says. “You just can’t beat our weather here, which is great for all the outdoor events we can accommodate.” (In fact, the area gets so much sunshine that solar panels were placed on the roof of the Expo Center’s largest building to generate power.)
The Deschutes Fair and Expo Center itself is unique, too. The 132-acre site is home to Oregon’s largest annual county fair and features nearly 200,000 square feet of flexible indoor space, a 95,000-square-foot barn complex, three arenas and more than 75 acres of lawns.
The largest building is the Bank of the Cascades Center, a multipurpose indoor arena that constitutes some 279,000 square feet of space under one roof, capable of hosting virtually any type of performance or competition and handling 10,000 spectators for a concert, 4,000 for a rodeo and 5,000 for basketball. The center is wired for TV broadcast and has a built-in sound system, wi-fi, scoreboard, concessions and locker rooms.
The Three Sisters Conference and Convention Center consists of three venues that can be configured in a variety of set-ups. All have built-in sound systems and wi-fi. North Sister and South Sister are 9,416 square feet each, and Middle Sister is 14,904. Within the Three Sisters is a 5,000-square-foot kitchen designed to handle multiple catering and concession events.
The High Desert Activity Center is a multi-purpose building complete with climate control, sound and restrooms. The open floor plan offers nearly 12,700 square feet of column-free space.
The Barn Complex has four enclosed barns and one covered, all designed for multi-purpose use with blacktop flooring. The complex has stabling for 400 horses. It also features four arenas, including the Juniper Arena which offers covered grandstand seating for 2,500 with bleacher seating for 1,000, and the fully covered Sagebrush Arena with seating for 1,500.
The Deschutes Fair and Expo Center is designed on a circular plot; the center is never more than 300 yards from any spot. This beautiful “Center Court” has a water feature in a natural landscape setting on about 3.6 acres, with beautifully manicured lawns, ponds, a cascading waterfall and windmill.
Indoor and Outdoor Events
Beyond equestrian, rodeo, livestock and agriculture events, the center’s appeal for sports of all types, for all age groups, has caught the eye of sports event organizers. “We have a wide variety of events here,” Todoroff says. “Currently, we’ve been hosting wrestling tournaments in our Bank of the Cascades indoor arena, and we’ve even had the Portland Trailblazers here to play some of their pre-season NBA games. We’re also well-suited to host martial arts, gymnastics, competitive cheer—really any indoor events.”
The Bank of the Cascades Center has permanent stadium seating for 4,000, and the finished concrete floor means any type of floor covering or course can be laid down. In addition to a basketball floor, for instance, the center can host roller derby, and even bring in an ice rink for hockey and other skating events. The center also moves in dirt and hosts the Great Northwest BMX Nationals. The venue is ideal for motor sports, including motocross, arena-cross and monster truck rallies. The site also contains an off-road race track in its overall 320 acres.
General Manager Dan Despotopulos says there’s untapped potential in the vast, well-manicured grounds and lawns. “With about 130 acres of surrounding grass fields, we have the ability to host all types of outdoor sports as well—soccer, lacrosse, rugby, football, field hockey, you name it.
“Plus, we have a huge area for parking,” he adds. “Not only can we fit 4,000 cars at the front of the facility, but we have an additional 100 acres we can use, so parking is never an issue, and it’s always free.” There’s also a year-round RV park right on the property, offering 106 sites with full hook-ups.
The view from the facility is unparalleled, with a panorama of seven snowcapped mountain peaks that include Mount Bachelor, the Three Sisters, Brokentop and Mount Jefferson. There are also views of Smith Rock, one of the world’s premier rock-climbing destinations.
“Central Oregon is known as the playground for the Northwest,” says Despotopulos. In fact, there is so much to do in the area that athletes and families will have no problem keeping occupied off the field or competition floor. Day trips offer an incredible array of activities, such as hiking, biking and mountain biking; kayaking, canoeing and paddle-boarding on the stunning lakes; whitewater rafting and tubing; hunting and fishing (particularly trout, salmon and steelhead).
In the winter there are plenty of places for snow sports, including Mount Bachelor, a world-class ski resort that’s about 40 minutes away on the eastern edge of the Cascade Mountains. In addition to the fresh mountain air, the high-desert climate provides some of the driest powder in the Pacific Northwest—perfect for skiing.
In summer, the area is a golf Mecca, with more than 30 courses all within an hour of Redmond, including—right next door to the Fair and Expo Center—the award-winning Juniper Golf Course, named “Best Place to Play” in Oregon four times by Golf Digest.
Other attractions include the High Desert Museum, a must-see for all ages, with wild eagles, owls, otters, bobcat, lynx and other animals in their natural habitats. There are more than 300 fascinating lava tube caves in Central Oregon, and the vibrant reds, yellows and golds of the Painted Hills are an incredible sight.
Redmond also has a great appreciation for art and culture, which, in fact, has a sports connection: Nike founder Phil Knight and his wife started the city’s foray into public art with two donations that led to the creation of the Redmond Arts Commission and Redmond Commission for Art in Public Places.
The Deschutes Fair and Expo Center is in the center of the state, at the hub of three counties—Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook. It’s five minutes from Redmond and 15 minutes from Bend, the largest city in Central Oregon. It’s also minutes away from the Redmond Airport and within a few hours’ drive from major cities in the Northwest.
The area has restaurants and lodging options to suit all tastes and budgets, including half a dozen resort properties. While two hotels are right next to the Expo Center, there are nearly 5,000 rooms available within a 15-mile radius
“We work very closely with all of our tourism partners to make sure events coming into the area find exactly what they need,” Todoroff says. The staff will help with finding lodging, putting together bids, seeking out discounts, and more.
“We like to say, ‘We really can do it all!’” she adds. “That doesn’t just apply to the Deschutes Fair and Expo Center. For sports events and visitors, this area really can do it all, too.”
For more information on the Deschutes Fair and Expo Center , visit www.expo.deschutes.org or call 541-548-2711.