Fairfax Country's first county-operated indoor horse riding arena is scheduled to be built by next fall in Frying Pan Park on West Ox Road in Herndon. It will allow year-round activities in the park, which now operates from spring through autumn.

Construction of the new facility will "fill up a void that was recognized in [WORD ILLEGIBLE] ," a Park Authority spokesman said. Plans for the indoor arena were adopted after many requests from organized horseback riding interests in the county.

Residents in the Dranesville, Centreville and Springfield districts of Fairfax County in 1977 owned approximately 5,000 horses, according to a survey conducted by volunteers in cooperation with the Fairfax County Department of Extension and Continuing Education.

Frying Pan Park was chosen as the site for the indoor facility because of its "reasonable location" to the three areas "where most of the horse population is," according to Louis Cable, the Park Authority's assistant director in charge of programs and planning.

"This isn't to say that we don't have interest in supplying equestrian facilities elsewhere," he said, but many resources are already available at Frying Pan Park to complement the new facility. The 87-acre park currently has two outdoor horse show rings, several barns where people board their horses during shows and a cross-country course, in addition to a large barn for agricultural events, a school house used for community meetings, a model farm depicting farming the early 1900s and an operating blacksmith shop where workshops are held. The park is also the home of the annual 4-H County Fair.

Last year, about 55,000 people visited Frying Pan Park, according to the Park Authority, which estimates that 70 percent came there for horse show and 4-H Club activities. Some of the groups who used the park's equestrian facilities were the Arlington-Fairfax Horse Club, The Bull Run Junior Hunt Club, Difficult Run Horse Club, Great Falls Pony Club and the Virginia Quarterhouse Association.

The new arena will also be used for non-equestrian events.

"We think it's going to be a facility that's going to take care of not only the equestrian people in the county, but used for different types of shows - auto shows, a ceramics show, an antique show," said Frederick M. Crabtree, chairman of the Fairfax County Park Authority.

Fees for use of the new arena have not yet been set, Crabtree said, but the Park Authority will accept suggestions from the public and a fee schedule will probably be set in January.

"We're going to try to set those fees at a very minimal amount so that everyone can use the facility," he said. "Some people seem to think that (horse owners) are very wealthy people just because they have a horse," Crabtree said, but many "average people" own horses in the county. "We certainly don't want to price anyone out of this place."

At a recent meeting of the Fairfax County Park Authority, approval was given to the signing of a contract with the architectural firm of Berry, Rio and Associates, of Annandale, to represent the Park Authority during the design and construction phase of the arena. The firm's fee is not to exceed $12,181.

The architectural firm and the Park Authority will review proposals submitted by teams of architects and general contractors, and contracts are expected to be awarded this spring. Construction is scheduled to be finished by fall 1979.

According to the Park Authority's master plan, the new arena will be 180- by 250 feet, with an earthen floor. Inside the arena there is to be an unobscured space for regulation-sized horse ring of 190-by-120 feet. The area outside the ring is to be used for practice and warm-up. Space on either side of the ring is available for potential spectator areas as well as for future enclosures for meetin rooms, office space and restrooms.

Construction funds of $210,000 were included in the $39-million 1977 park bond referendum.