Gilbert equestrian center in starting gate - East Valley Tribune: News

Gilbert equestrian center in starting gate

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Posted: Monday, May 14, 2007 4:51 am | Updated: 7:09 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Horses and racing have long been a part of Lyndie Brown’s life.

The 17-year-old Gilbert girl is among thousands of horse lovers, not only in town but in the region, who fight for limited equestrian practice space and look forward to the town’s proposal to build a large regional equestrian center.

“If we could use the park whenever we want to, that would be great,” she said. Right now, many horse lovers have to trailer their animals to the desert to ride.

The town will meet with members of the nonprofit equestrian group, Gilbert Promotional Corp., and other officials and residents on Wednesday for initial talks about the proposed equestrian and multi-purpose facility — the final phase of an $80,000 threephase feasibility study released in March.

“We’re going to start approaching some questions never asked before,” Town Councilman Steve Urie said. “If this is a serious go, how do we structure it?”

One big question: Who will run it? Gilbert Promotional Corp. volunteers, who currently oversee the town’s Rodeo Park and organize the annual Gilbert Days event that would be held at the proposed center, are willing. Other operating options include a private company or the town itself.

The town has used West-World of Scottsdale as a model for its goal of attracting regional events. WestWorld, while known for attracting tens of millions of dollars in regional revenue, also annually produces an operational deficit in Scottsdale’s budget.

Gilbert Promotional Corp. member Warner Weber said he’d like to see his group, which has long held the reins on Gilbert’s equestrian activities, play a major role in operating the facility.

“We need to protect and perpetuate our heritage,” he said.

The town has proceeds from the sale of $10 million in voter-approved bonds to begin building the project, which the feasibility study estimates could cost $25 million to complete. Economics Research Associates, authors of the study, recommends the park be built at Chandler Heights Basin at the southwest corner of Queen Creek and Greenfield roads.

The center is anticipated to become home of local horse shows as well as large multiday regional equestrian events. Garden and dog shows could also take place, as well as concerts, high school graduations and town events.

By the fifth year of operation, the study found, total annual attendance could be as high as 137,680.

Urie said if the town moves forward, work on the center could begin in two to five years.

To Tom Wade, a member of Gilbert Promotional Corp. who watched daughters Taryn, 7, and Tatum, 9, compete in barrel racing Thursday, it will be a welcome center for a community eager to continue a heritage that has been affected by increasing growth and decreasing riding areas.

“One of the things I’d like to see is people who have an understanding of equestrian centers run it,” he said. “I think we have the ability to attract national events.”

Center proposal

What: Town meeting on future equestrian center proposal

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Conference room 300, 50 E. Civic Center Drive

Contact: (480) 503-6000 or www.ci.gilbert.az.us

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