(Edited press release)
Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher announced his support for the funding of three major improvements at the Kentucky Horse Park: a new outdoor stadium, an expansion of the new covered equine arena and comprehensive improvements of the park's 30-year-old road network.
The park will be the site of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games--a quadrennial event never before held outside Europe. The facilities are needed to accommodate a doubling of the park's attendance and annual economic impact, as anticipated in an analysis by park officials.
"These improvements will not only help guarantee the success of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010, but they will attract new shows, new events and new visitors from all corners of Kentucky to the Horse Park for many years to come," said Fletcher.
The proposed $24 million outdoor stadium would provide permanent seating for 10,000 visitors and temporary seating that would expand the stadium's capacity to more than 30,000. To the indoor equine arena, the governor proposes to add exhibit space, better lighting and technical infrastructure at a cost of $4 million.
Many of the roads at the Horse Park were the original farm roads. Fletcher proposes widening, repaving or creating about four miles of park roads at a cost of $10.3 million, to be paid from the Road Fund.
"Kentucky has, and should always have, the best equine facility of its kind in the world," said Kentucky Horse Park Executive Director John Nicholson. "If we want to keep it that way, we must make these investments now. Other states are spending millions to build their own horse parks with newer and more impressive facilities."
Kentucky sent representatives to the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany. From their observations, it was determined that the Kentucky Horse Park would need additional capital improvements beyond the indoor arena approved by the 2006 General Assembly.
"Oklahoma is spending $55 million to upgrade their version of the Kentucky Horse Park," said Sen. Damon Thayer (R), Georgetown, and a member of the Governor's World Equestrian Games Advisory Commission. "If we are to remain the 'Horse Capitol of the World', we should consider further improvements and investment in the Kentucky Horse Park."
To host the Games and future major equestrian events, the Kentucky Horse Park needs a world-class outdoor stadium. It will be used for the opening and closing ceremonies and three of the eight World Equestrian Games events.
After examining the long-term needs of the Horse Park for the period following the 2010 Games, it was determined that a "blended" facility of 10,000 permanent seats and the capacity for 20,000 temporary seats would be the most appropriate and cost-effective.
The project will take approximately nine months to design and 12 months to construct and must be completed in time for the 2009 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, which is the last week in April 2009. As with the Indoor Arena, it is necessary to allow sufficient time to operate the facility prior to the Games so that operational issues can be discovered and resolved.
Time is also needed to install landscaping in the appropriate planting season and allow for adequate "grow in" prior to the Games. The FEI also requires that test events be held in its host facilities. These events would need to be held in the 2009 and 2010 seasons prior to the Games.
Funds are currently appropriated for an indoor, climate-controlled arena. Design is complete and the project is scheduled to be bid in March 2007.
In addition to the improvements authorized in the 2006 legislative session, the needed enhancements are acoustical roof decking for superior sound quality and sufficient exhibit/conference space to accommodate the large trade fairs that accompany major equine events and conferences. The enhancements are expected to cost $4 million.
Bidding cannot be delayed until after the 2008 session. Construction time is estimated to be two years and prudence dictates allowing a full year of operation prior to the Games in order to expose and resolve potential issues.
The $2.3 million project appropriated by the 2006 General Assembly is currently under way and will improve a one-mile section of Cigar Lane, a main traffic artery to the new indoor arena and horse show areas.
The needed additional work will provide a horseshoe-shaped road around the Horse Park's property line from the main entrance on Iron Works Pike to the Campground entrance, also on Iron Works Pike. In addition, Nina Bonnie Boulevard, a road that runs the length of the Horse Park, will be upgraded to serve as the main axis around which the 2010 Games and future events will revolve.
It will serve as a major pedestrian traffic thoroughfare during the Games, reverting to vehicle use after the Games.
The park currently hosts 67 competitive equine events each year, with annual attendance of 900,000. Park officials estimate the improvements will help them attract up to 34 additional equine events, pushing annual attendance to more than 1.6 million by 2014. The improvements are expected to produce an additional $169 million in annual economic impact.