'We have a few million dollars' worth of dreams.'
On a damp, thoroughly "Oregon" Monday morning, Kerry Griffin stood on the slick grass at the Lake Oswego Hunt Club as he described the myriad issues associated with the roof at the 85-year-old building.
"It's been five years probably," Griffin, the secretary of the Hunt Club board, said of the quest to replace the roof. "Once a roof gets to the point where it's actually leaking, you're probably at a point where you're already a few years too late."
He continued, describing how the first bid the club received for the project — a couple years back — came in around $400,000 and considered infeasible.
"That included some structural stuff too," he said. "So right now, we're just focusing on getting new plywood and shingles, and to be able to … keep things dry inside, and then with fundraising we'll be able to take next steps."
Before Griffin could finish his thought, however, he was interrupted by the "clank" of a horse's hoof kicking the guardrail behind him. Corey, one of the 42 horses permanently boarded at the club, wanted to make his feelings clear.
"Fix the roof, already!"
To that end, the Hunt Club — which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and run by the nonprofit Lake Oswego Hunt, Inc. as a stable and competitive event space — will host what's considered its biggest fundraiser in recent history this Saturday, Sept. 21, from 4 to 8 p.m. The "Raise the Roof" event will include a champagne relay (where riders carry glasses of champagne while hopping fences in a race), food and drink, both silent and live auctions, and live blues music. Proceeds will be used to fund the new roof, but Griffin said that specific project is really just the first step as the club looks to usher in a new era.
"We have a few million dollars' worth of dreams," Griffin said. "We would love to do a major, major refresher — or reinvent ourselves, at least physically."
A community thoroughbred
Occupying an expansive 19 acres on Iron Mountain Boulevard, the Hunt Club has been a community staple since the land was donated by Paul Murphy — owner of the far more expansive Ladd Estate — in 1936.
"He wanted to bring polo originally, and also equestrian events, and donated this land to the Lake Oswego Hunt Organization," Griffin said. "Before then, (the club) was actually located in the Wizer block in downtown Lake Oswego. In 1936, they moved here and started construction on the barn and arena."
The relocated club earned a reputation over the following decades for its variety of equestrian events and educational opportunities.
"At the time, it was the largest arena in the state, and one of the largest in the country," Hunt Club Barn Director Taryn McAllister said.
McAllister now manages about 100 regular students at the club, while also caring for the dozens of horses who board at the facility. She knows the horses by name and stall, and displays an easy kinship with each of them (she gently scolded Corey when he kicked the guard rail).
And from the spring through the fall, Griffin estimated that the club hosts about two exhibitions per month.
"There's a demand for this kind of facility — people come up to this spot from southern Oregon (and) the Seattle area," Griffin said.
"There's not a ton of places in the area that do shows, especially with the expanse and range we do," McAllister added.
It takes just a quick glance at the club stable's tarp-covered roof to understand the scale of the problem. Inside on that Monday morning, previous leaks have mostly dried up — but later in the day, after another deluge, Griffin sends photos of large puddles that accumulated in the hallways.
"Besides the fact that you just don't want it raining on your horses, it's not safe to have water coming in," Griffin said. "You want a clean, dry stable for your horses. You don't want moisture — it's messy."
McAllister said the leaks haven't caused any health issues for the horses — yet.
"It could at some point become an issue," she said. "Thankfully, the saving grace is the barn is very open, so we get enough air movement."
Griffin estimated that, at minimum, replacing the roof over the stable and clubroom at the property will come in "well over" $100,000. And for an organization that runs lean, such a large sum isn't easy to come by.
"(With) boarding businesses, generally your business model is to break even," McAllister said. "You don't make money on the board, you just break even. And any profit is done through training, lessons."
This particular effort to replace the roof has had fits and starts. According to Griffin, the club was close to completing the project several years ago before the plans fell through.
"We had the financing, but the economy was booming and we couldn't find a contractor to do it," he said. "If you're a roofer, you're like, 'Oh, I'm going to do a housing development, because I know how to do that.' And then we found a contractor, but we changed banks and we weren't able to get the financing for it."
Griffin isn't expecting to raise all of the money in one fell swoop Saturday.
"But hopefully we'll get close," he said.
A long-term investment
Griffin and McAllister hope replacing the roof will create something of a domino effect as the club moves into the future.
"We're not just asking people, 'Hey, come pay for our new roof,'" Griffin said. "We're asking people to invest in this property and this organization, and it has a lot of meaning to a lot of people."
Specifically, Griffin and McAllister dream of building a covered outdoor arena that would allow people to ride in comfort year-round.
"In the winter, you can't ride out in the field because it's too soggy and it harms the turf," Griffin said. "It would be really nice to have a covered outdoor arena — and not a whole new building, but basically a large roof so you could ride in dry comfort."
They'd also like to enclose the hay barn and build a more comfortable home for the caretaker who lives on site. Further, there's a desire for more paddocks, additional jumps in the field and an improved entryway at the site.
"People come to our front door and you're almost not quite sure — is this where we're supposed to be?" Griffin said.
The Hunt Club enjoys beloved status in the community, but Griffin and McAllister see continued investment as a necessity to keep that status — especially with the ever-present threat of developers salivating over the prime real estate the club occupies.
"This whole area is zoned R-10, residential development," Griffin said. "So this is very valuable development land. You could put a lot of houses here … Maybe a dozen years ago, (the Hunt Club organization) were just running into financial struggles and were very close to completely selling this property to developers and taking the money and building a new arena and stable on the other side of the lake. The threat is always there."
But no one expects that threat to materialize, so long as the club can continue to maintain and even enhance its offerings.
"This is a really special place physically, and it's really special in the lives of a lot of community members," Griffin said.
If You Go
WHAT: "Raise the Roof" at Lake Oswego Hunt
WHEN: 4-8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21
WHERE: Lake Oswego Hunt, 2725 Iron Mountain Boulevard, Lake Oswego
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