The multipurpose center under construction along U.S. 191 may open just in time for a high school rodeo competition to break in the new indoor arena.

Moab Construction Co. began building the $1.2 million Grand County Arena and Exposition Center last fall and is expected to finish next month, recreation board member Sandy Norton said."We aimed to open with the high school rodeo, but that's at the end of March. It could still be," Norton said. "It draws a lot of schools."

Except for a brief delay in January because of the weather, workers adhered to a steady schedule after groundbreaking last September, with an early spring opening in mind.

The facility, adjacent to the Canyonlands Rodeo Grounds south of Moab, was designed by Richard Kohler, of AIA Architecture-Urban Design of Salt Lake City, for year-round use as an equestrian center and for musical concerts, trade shows and filming activities.

District officials expect the facility will develop primarily as a regional center for horse shows, auctions and clinics and could become self-sufficient within a few years.

The project was initially funded in December 1989 with a $547,000 grant from the State Permanent-Community Impact Board. Last February the CIB also approved a $615,000 interest-free loan for the project, to be repaid with monies the county receives in payments in lieu of taxes (PILT) on state holdings.

County commissioners last year committed 48 percent of the income from PILT funds to the recreation district in support of the equestrian center.

According to a bond agreement finalized between the recreation district and the CIB last summer, the district will make payments of $20,000 on the state loan for the first three years, then $46,000 annually for the next 12 years.