Gilbert’s proposed equestrian and special events center could attract tens of thousands of visitors and as many as 50 regional events each year, according to a feasibility study commissioned by the town.
To do that, the town would need to build a facility that could cost as much as $25 million.
“We believe that the best investment was now,” said Councilwoman Joan Krueger, who added that land prices will only increase if the park is put on the back burner. “We have to spend our community’s money wisely.”
Councilman Don Skousen said the equestrian center is “money well spent,” as long as it focuses on a variety of events: Horse shows, balloon shows, car auctions, dog shows.
Voters already approved $10 million in bonds toward constructing the facility.
The town paid $80,000 for a three-part study by Economics Research Associates, which has released the first two phases of a feasibility study.
In the second phase of the study released this month, the consultant found that Gilbert’s proposed special events venue could attract about 50 regional equestrian events in a year, excluding practices and other events such as dog shows.
According to a survey of 25 local and regional equestrian groups that hold events in the Valley, there is the potential for an additional 57 events.
Mayor Steve Berman said the venue is “perfect” for a town with a rich equestrian history, and “upscale” residents who enjoy unique town parks.
“What people are moving to Gilbert for is quality of life,” Berman said.
The consultant recommends the town use the 300-acre Chandler Heights Basin for the facility, instead of Rittenhouse Basin, where traffic could be too congested to handle the facility. Both had been identified as possible sites.
The consultants recommended the facility include a covered, open-sided arena with a dirt ring and minimal seating capacity of 2,000, as well as an open-air and lighted secondary arena that can seat up to 500.
The facility needs to include concessions and bathrooms, a multipurpose banquet facility, offices, cattle and rough stock pens and at least 200 holding stalls, the consultants said.
The study found that no existing equestrian center would compete for events with Gilbert’s proposed facility.
The study did find that plans to redevelop and expand the Apache Junction Rodeo Park, as well as discussion about building a Queen Creek equestrian park, could lead to competition for the same events.
But the study also found that demand is high enough to support the addition of two new equestrian centers in the Valley, particularly between January and April.
The third phase of the study is expected to be released by April.