10.02.13

2018 WEG is knocking, lets answer the opportunity.

Posted in 2018 Games, Alltech, Dr. Pearse Lyons, FEI, Governor Beshear, John Nicholson at 11:31 pm by Thomas

The second article in a little over the week has come out touting the possibility of the 2018 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games being back in Kentucky.  This article was written by Nancy Jaffer for EquiSearch who had discussions with both John Nicholson and Dr. Pearse Lyons and all indications from those discussions were that the idea of us hosting the 2018 Games was under active consideration, though Mr. Nicholson did temper that by saying “that should not imply a decision has been made”.

Now, based on my research and discussions with others there is certainly an opportunity for us to host the 2018 Games if we so desire.  I will go as far as to say that currently the decision has been made and indicated to FEI that we are interested in hosting them.   I should and will clarify, that is NOT information that I have gotten directly from the horse’s mouth, excuse the pun, by which I mean anyone in close contact with the 3 needed principals, Dr. Lyons, John Nicholson or the Governor  Steve Beshear.  Dr. Lyons pretty much hinted though that, that is where the decision lies at the moment, that is to say the Governor is doing the political calculation on whether there would be support for it within our Legislative body to pursue a fast track formal bid.  Now the Governor is not facing re-election but I am sure he doesn’t want to start the process of us formally submitting a bid only to then have the Legislature not provide support for it when the come back into Session after the first of the year, being as this upcoming Session will be a Budget Session for Fiscal Years 2015-2016.

My best guess/gut is a formal announcement will be made this month, possibly as early as the 10th or as late as the end of the Alltech National Horse Show which would take us into early November.  If a formal announcement one way or the other isn’t made by then I would have to say that highly suggests we are not going to pursue a bid to host.  Stay tuned as you know I will be staying on top of this story.

Here is the link to Nancy Jaffer’s article.

Kentucky Colonel
Thomas P. Demond
KyWEGO®

09.01.13

Bringing WEG back to Kentucky.

Posted in 2026, Governor Beshear, Kentucky Horse Park, My Thoughts, Position Statements at 8:44 pm by Thomas

By now I would assume anyone who has read my blog from over the last almost 8 years, can guess I have a high degree of interest in seeing the World Equestrian Games back in Kentucky again.  Now after what I heard last Saturday at the Kentucky State Fair I think I need to re-emphasize that.

It was the Saturday Night of the World’s Championship Horse Show, which is the big night and its not unusual for a sitting Governor to be there to present an award, this year was a little different.  The Governor seemed to be doing a stump speech, though not really sure why, but he was going on about how Kentucky is the Horse Capital of the World and how much money this particular week long show brought in.  Now let me stop before anyone thinks my intention is to bash the Governor, absolutely not, I like Steve Beshear and the First Lady Jane Beshear who is quite an accomplished horse person in her own right.   I will go as far as to say I voted for Governor Beshear, not saying I agree with all his policy positions but certainly think he provides a balance and direction to the Commonwealth that has helped it to weather the economic storm of the last 7 years.  I just wish that as the Governor he would openly say that he would like to see the World Equestrian Games back in Kentucky again and at least set the ball in motion considering he realizes how important it for Kentucky that we are the Horse Capital of the World.

So the point I want to drive home is, we are the Horse Capital of the World and we should make it known that we desire to hold the World Equestrian Games every so many cycles, in my opinion, no more then every 16 years  with an average of 12, meaning sometimes 8 years and sometimes 16 years.  To me it seems a no brainer, there were significant capital improvements made to the Kentucky Horse Park and the infrastructure surrounding it.  Those type of capital improvements have a life span just like anything does, I would argue they have a half-life of 16 years meaning if we hosted the Games again by 2026 most of that infrastructure should still be usable having been maintained as part of the standard ops of the Horse Park.  Now, I would certainly love to have comments from Architects and Engineers as well as City Planners on where I am right and wrong in that generalization but I am more right that wrong for the sake of my argument, and that argument isn’t whether I am crazy or not, that was settled a long time ago in regards to this.  In some ways its no longer an argument on whether the Games are coming back to Kentucky, I will find a way to get them back here because I do believe with all my soul that it is very important to Kentucky and maybe even our responsibility as the Horse Capital of the World to be part of the global rotation that holds the Games, and that is another topic for another post, the idea that there should be set of established host locations, but again, topic for another post.

Kentucky Colonel
Thomas P. Demond
KyWEGO

08.15.12

Governor recognizes KHP as world-class; 115 of this year’s Olympic riders competed there

Posted in Government, Governor Beshear, Kentucky, Kentucky Horse Park at 7:08 am by EPR

As the 2012 Olympic Games in London close, Gov. Steve Beshear today recognized the Kentucky Horse Park as an elite international equestrian facility for consistently hosting world-class and Olympic-caliber athletes.

The Horse Park is also a significant economic contributor to the Commonwealth, with an estimated economic impact of approximately $180 million each year.

Rolex Kentucky (photo by www.PixBySteve.com.)

“The Kentucky Horse Park is the only place in our state—and one of the few places in the world—where visitors can see world-class equestrian competitions on a regular basis,” said Beshear. “We are not only the Horse Capital of the World, but Kentucky is also one of the premier homes for high-level equestrian sports. I encourage Kentuckians and visitors to attend one of the many top-rated shows held at the Kentucky Horse Park and witness elite competition firsthand.”

More than 115 athletes who participated in equestrian events in the 2012 Olympics have competed at the Kentucky Horse Park. Seventeen of those athletes earned a medal in the London Olympics.

 

Athletes frequently travel from Australia, France, Great Britain and many other countries to the Lexington facility to contend for top honors in equestrian sports such as dressage, jumping and eventing.

The Horse Park also hosted the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, which marked the first time the elite competition was held outside of Europe. That event placed Kentucky in the international spotlight and generated more than $200 million in economic impact, and also built on the park’s international reputation as a signature event site. The new facilities added to the Horse Park for WEG continue to attract competitors and tourists to Kentucky from across the country and around the world.

“We appreciate the continued support from the governor and first lady. We are exceedingly proud of our facility and the competitions that bring in visitors and athletes from around the globe,” said John Nicholson, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park. “The Kentucky Horse Park is clearly one of the leading equestrian competition facilities not just in North America, but anywhere in the world. We expect the tremendous growth of the sport horse industry in Kentucky will accelerate in the years ahead.”

The Kentucky Horse Park is a 1,200 acre competition facility and tourist attraction recognized as the epicenter of equestrian life, sports and business. Most notably, the park annually hosts the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. The event is ranked at four stars, which is the highest level in international competition.

The Horse Park hosts a number of other award-winning shows as well. The Alltech National Horse Show won the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame’s Show of the year. They were also named the top U.S. show by the North American Riders Group. North American Junior and Young Rider Championships and the two weeks of Kentucky Spring Hunter Jumper were named among the top 25 events in North America.

This year, the facility will host 21 grand prix jumper classes as well as seven national or international hunter derbies, with more than $1 million offered in prize money.

The Park will host three upper-level dressage events in 2013, including the U.S. Dressage Finals.

For more information on the Kentucky Horse Park and its world-class events, please visit kyhorsepark.com.

From Ky. Horse Park

Gov. Beshear Pledges Support for Recreational Trails Program

Posted in Adventure Tourism, Government, Governor Beshear, Kentucky at 6:28 am by EPR

Commonwealth of Kentucky
Office of the Governor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Letter to Sec. LaHood Affirms Kentucky’s Commitment to Program

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Aug. 9, 2012) – Gov. Steve Beshear today announced his support for the federal Recreational Trails Program (RTP) by signing a letter to U.S. Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood reaffirming Kentucky’s commitment to utilize RTP funds.

“I am extremely pleased that the Recreational Trails Program has been reauthorized for funding,” said Gov. Beshear.  “Kentucky is dedicated to effectively and efficiently using this program’s resources in an effort to enhance tourism, increase economic development and promote healthy, active lifestyles in our rural and urban communities.”

The RTP provides funding to states to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both non-motorized and motorized recreational trail uses.

Last month, Congress and President Obama reauthorized RTP funding with the passage and signing of the Federal Public Transportation Act of 2012.  As part of the legislation, $85 million in annual funding is dedicated to states for the RTP.  However, the legislation also contains a provision that allows state governors to opt out of the program funding.

With this letter of support, Gov. Beshear officially states that Kentucky recognizes the importance of the RTP and opposes any efforts to opt out of the program.

“Recreational trails not only provide an alternative form of transportation, they also spur economic development, increase property values and aid in land conservation,” said Gov. Beshear.  “Trail funding has been a valuable resource to enhancing the quality of Kentucky communities and I encourage other states to take advantage of this funding tool.”

The RTP is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration.  Kentucky’s RTP grants are administered by DLG and require that applicants match the amount of funds requested. The grants may be used to provide assistance for acquisition of easements; development and/or maintenance of recreational trails; and trailhead facilities for both motorized and non-motorized use.

In 2011, Kentucky awarded $1.8 million in RTP grants to 38 applicants in communities across the Commonwealth to help fund hiking, cycling, horseback riding and other trails.

For more info on Kentucky recreational trails and other adventure tourism efforts in the state, please visit http://www.kentuckytourism.com/outdoor_adventure/great_outdoors.aspx.

Follow Governor Beshear on Twitter @Govstevebeshear, read the Governor’s personal notes on his blog at http://governor.ky.gov/blog, and view his video commentaries at http://www.youtube.com/governorbeshear.

Contact

Commonwealth of Kentucky 

Office of the Governor
Kerri Richardson at:
502.564.2611 or 502.330.6633
Terry Sebastian at:
502.564.2611 or 502.229.6130

Kentucky Horse Council

1500 Bull Lea Rd, Suite 214C
Lexington, KY 40511
www.kentuckyhorse.org
info@kentuckyhorse.org
Phone: (859) 367-0509
Fax: (866) 618-3837

06.27.11

Gov. Beshear announces Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games had economic impact of more than $201 million

Posted in 2010 Games, Announcement, Business Impacts, Government, Governor Beshear, World Equestrian Games at 10:35 pm by Thomas

Report: Visitors to event came from 63 countries, all 50 states

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 27, 2011) – The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games held in 2010 at the Kentucky Horse Park had an economic impact of $201.5 million, Governor Steve Beshear announced today.

“The World Equestrian Games were indeed a success and this report illustrates the positive result that our local and state governments, our sponsors, the many volunteers, the business community and the citizens of the Commonwealth working together can have.” Gov. Beshear said. “It also underscores the important role of the Kentucky Horse Park and the legacy the games will have for future years.”

Gov. Beshear, First Lady Jane Beshear, Alltech founder Dr. Pearse Lyons, Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Marcheta Sparrow and Kentucky Horse Park Executive Director John Nicholson participated in the announcement today at the Kentucky Horse Park.

“The World Equestrian Games was a unique opportunity to reaffirm our standing as Horse Capital of the World, as well as promote tourism and business in Kentucky,” said Mrs. Beshear. “To witness the event first-hand, from its inception to the closing ceremony of the final day, I am thrilled with its success and want to thank everyone who took part in creating and executing such a tremendous, historic event for our state.”

The Alltech World Equestrian Games were held Sept. 25 through Oct. 10, 2010, the first time the international event had been held outside of Europe. The games are composed of eight events – dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, para dressage, reining and vaulting.

According to the report commissioned by the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, the Alltech World Equestrian Games Foundation reported that it sold or provided complimentary tickets to 419,853 visitors. They came from 63 countries and all 50 states.

The economic impact took into account “direct” spending that accounted for $128.2 million. This includes guest spending at the Horse Park, lodging, restaurants, shopping centers and retail outlets.

It also considered “indirect” spending – $73.3 million – such as money spent for food and lodging suppliers, construction and other services that were needed to support the influx of guests.

The report found that $55.4 million was spent on tickets, food, souvenirs and other items at the event while $39.6 million was spent on lodging. The games also generated nearly $18.4 million in state taxes and nearly $4.6 million in local taxes, the report said.

“While these financial impact numbers are quite impressive and stronger than even anticipated, the impact extends far beyond the monetary evaluation,” said Dr. Lyons. “For years to come, our community will reap the benefits of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, from a new sense of community pride to statewide improvements and infrastructures that continue to drive tourism today.”

The study was conducted for the cabinet by Certec Inc. of Versailles. Information for the study was supplied by the World Games 2010 Foundation Inc., the Kentucky Horse Park, and the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. An online version of the report is available at http://www.kentuckytourism.com/industry/research.aspx.

“The investment Gov. Beshear and the legislature made here at the Horse Park has already made this facility the best in the nation for equine-related events and organizations,” Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said. “The visibility the Games brought to our city and the investments the state made in Lexington to help our city host the Games – road improvements, a much improved gateway into our city and a new runway at the airport – have elevated Lexington’s brand as the Horse Capital of the World. The legacy and the economic impact of the Games have been remarkable.”

The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games had a direct impact on passenger travel at Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport. In October 2010, passenger enplanements increased by 39 percent from the previous year, according to the airport’s 2010 annual report.

The airport and its partners hosted more than 700 private and corporate airplanes, provided security for international dignitaries, welcomed more than 460 international athletes and facilitated 18 special event charter flights, said Eric Frankl, executive director at Blue Grass Airport

“It was a privilege for the airport to serve as the gateway to central Kentucky for World Equestrian Games visitors,” he said. “The airport experienced one of its busiest months in airport history as a result of the collaborative effort put forth by our airlines, airport partners and staff to successfully handle an event of this magnitude.”

###

Follow Governor Beshear on Twitter @Govstevebeshear, read the Governor’s personal notes on his blog at http://blog.governor.ky.gov/ , and view the Governor’s weekly YouTube commentary at http://www.youtube.com/governorbeshear.

02.25.09

World Games 2010 Foundation 2nd Community Forum

Posted in 2010 Games, BusinessLexington, Jamie Link, LFUCG, Trade Fair, World Games 2010 Foundation at 10:31 pm by Thomas

I attended the second World Games 2010 Foundation Community Forum at the Lexington Public Library today.  Tom Martin, editor of Business Lexington was the moderator for the hour long event.  The forum panel was made up of new Foundation CEO Jamie Link, Vice President of Sales Terry Johnson, and Housing Bureau Director Krista Greathouse.

The primary topic of the day was the economy though by the end of the hour a wide range of subjects had been discussed.  Tom noted that the Foundation and the Local Government were still working out the intricacies between the two bodies.  The Host City Agreement is before the Lexington Urban Council but has yet to come up for a final vote.

Currently spectator interest in the Games continues to be high with Krista  stating that they are averaging a new group a week contacting them for accommodations, with 75% of those groups being International as well as 2000 new room requests per month.  Krista also noted that the area should have plenty of accommodations for all those planning on attending and that currently they had three times as many private residences for rent then the current demand though she expected that to change as the date for the Games got closer.

On the other side of the equation, Terry stated they were 70% of their budgeted goal for sponsorships  and that two or three new major sponsors would be announced in the next 90 days.  He also reported that they have deposits for 60% of the currently designated Trade Fair booth space and that if they filled that up that they would find additional space for anyone else looking for booth space during the Games.

On another interesting note, the City is planning on having a duplicate medal ceremonies downtown at the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza during the Games.

CEO Jamie Link closed the forum by addressing the issue of the economy and how the investment in the Games was an investment in the future of Kentucky during these tough times.

Thomas Demond

Found KyWEGO

03.29.08

2008 Senate Bill 196 (Kentucky Recreational Trails Authority)

Posted in Adventure Tourism, Governor Beshear, Kentucky, Legislation at 10:53 pm by Thomas

Kentucky Senate Bill 196 (Kentucky Recreational Trails Authority) passed both houses of the Kentucky Legislature and is headed to Governor Beshear’s desk where he has said he would sign it.  This bill was referred to as the “Adventure Tourism Bill” was sponsored by Sen. Brandon Smith (R-Hazard).   In simple terms this bill is going to allow the State to enter into agreements with public land owners to provide trails and access points to connect public lands while protecting private land owners from undo liability risk.  First Lady Jane Beshear’s idea is to connect all 12o Kentucky counties with horse trails so that you could ride from one end of the state to the other.  We of course think this is a great idea and are in total support.  

The press release from the Governor’s office on this bill.  

On a side-note, I had the honor of meeting Emily Dennis at my CTA class and getting to ride out at her family’s Big Red Stables today.  Emily testified in both the House and Senate on behalf of this bill and had significant input in the crafting of the liability portion of this bill.  So I give thanks to Emily for her involvement in this bill and for the wonderful ride I had at her place today which I know I will feel in the morning, but that’s a good thing.

Thomas

12.11.07

Governor Steve Beshear’s Inaugural Parade: “Kentucky First”

Posted in Governor Beshear at 11:51 pm by Thomas

I had the great honor today in being part of the Inaugural Parade for Governor Steve Beshear. Even a greater honor was that I got to carry the banner for the Parade’s Grand Marshall, Calvin Borel. Even before I knew what I was going to get to do in the parade I knew it was important, so when Gina Beard put out the request for Kentucky Horse Park volunteers to participate I jumped at the chance. For me this was important both as a Kentucky Horse Park volunteer as well as being a member of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels to show my support for Governor Beshear because of the emphasis he had given to the horse in this parade.

I wasn’t able to do an exact count myself but the news media was reporting that there would be around 150 horses in the parade and I would say there was every bit of that number. The Horse Park alone had some 30 horses in the parade, from every aspect of the Park. The weather turned out to be wonderful and it was a great time with all the horses there. Gina got a good turn out of volunteers so we had plenty of people so the day went smoothly and everyone had a great time.

So all and all it was just another fun day being a volunteer at the Kentucky Horse Park.

09.17.07

Lexington Legacy Project

Posted in 2010 Games, Government, Kentucky, Lexington, LFUCG at 6:12 am by Thomas

The Lexington Fayette Urban County Government put out a request for initiatives to be considered for the Lexington Legacy Project. We only had a couple of days after Mayor Newberry announced it to put together an idea but we did get it in by the deadline of September 11. We would of liked more time to better format it but sometimes its just better to get the ideas out there, even if our ideas are not used in whole we hope that they will help to formulate the final plan.

Our submission can be found here.

06.12.07

The drama continues!

Posted in Funding, Government, Governor Fletcher, Kentucky, Kentucky Horse Park, KyHP Funding at 11:30 pm by Thomas

So it seems that if the Governor calls a Special Session of the Kentucky Legislation this summer that it could be for who knows what and may or may not include the request for additional funding for the Horse Park. The Governor did appropriate the funds so that the engineering studies could begin this year which was an absolute necessity for the success of the Games. The need now is to have the money available to begin the construction as early as possible next year and there seems to be some question that the next regular Legislative session isn’t soon enough to guarantee that. Keep in mind no major construction can really happen until after next year’s Rolex Kentucky 3 Day Event, but any major construction firm is probably going to need at least 30 days advance notice to put the logistics together to start getting equipment out to the Horse Park and I am sure most are going to say 90 days for a practical matter as a true start date to cover themselves when it comes to meeting deadlines.

So the question remains, will the major construction have started at the Horse Park 1 year from today, I give that a 60/40 chance because I am always the optimistic realist and at this point we have had to accept the reality that the citizens of Kentucky seem to have very little real power in moving politicians to get the people’s business done.

03.30.07

Governor Fletcher; Moving the ball down the feild…

Posted in 2010 Games, Government, Governor Fletcher, Kentucky, KyHP Funding, News Worthy at 7:56 pm by Thomas

With the failure of the State House to act on the spending deal that would have provided the additional funding for the Horse Park the Governor acted this week to at least keep the ball moving down the field to guarantee the success of the games. He authorized Commerce Secretary George Ward to re-appropriate $900,000 in funds that had been set aside for a statewide campground improvement project.

These funds will allow at least the design work to continue for the proposed new stadium needed for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010. It is hoped that the design phase can be wrapped up by March of 2008 when bids will be sought for the construction of the stadium.

The Governor still may call a special session to re-address both the state pension short fall and the funding funding for the Horse Park that he requested in his State of the Commonwealth Address.

03.27.07

Time running out…..

Posted in Government, Kentucky, KyHP Funding, Legislation, News Worthy at 12:05 pm by Thomas

Well it seems our efforts have been in vain so far, the Kentucky Legislature looks unlikely to pass the requested funding for the Horse Park on this final day of this year’s session. There had been talk that the session might go till Friday to get everything worked out but that quickly faded yesterday. We haven’t given up for a five o’clock miracle and we will continue to find a way to get this funding covered so stay tuned.

03.13.07

Horse Park Funding Success: ALMOST

Posted in 2010 Games, Government, KyHP Funding, Legislation, News Worthy at 7:05 am by Thomas

Well yesterday it looked like the efforts of a lot of people were going to pay off and the additional funding for the Kentucky Horse Park was going to be approved with the Senate voting 37-0 to approve it. However the House and Senate deadlocked last night over some details and ran out of time to get a House vote. Now we will have to wait until March 26 when they return for the final 2 days of the session to see if they can get it passed though the last 2 days are generally reserved for things the Governor vetoes but there looks to be enough interest for this to make it back to the floor for a vote.

03.10.07

Governor may call Special Session, may include Horse Park funding.

Posted in 2010 Games, Government, Legislation, News Worthy at 8:10 pm by Thomas

It looks likely now that the Governor will call a Special Session of the Legislature to address the shortfall in the some of the State’s Retirement Plans.  Mentioned as a secondary item would be the additional requested funding for the Kentucky Horse Park needed for the Kentucky World Equestrian Games in 2010.

In my mind it was doubtful that the Governor would of had much luck calling a Special Session for the Horse Park funding alone and probably less luck getting the funding passed if he had called a Special Session for that sole purpose.  With the Senate driving the call for a Special Session to handle the Retirement issue it maybe possible that some back room deals will done that will allow a vote on the Horse Park funding.  Of course some people will call that bad politics, I am afraid though, that is just politics.

If a Special Session is called we will be asking everyone to call their Legislators to support the Horse Park funding request as this is too important to let politics get in the way.

02.24.07

Frankfort Holds the reins

Posted in 2010 Games, BusinessLexington, Funding, Government, Kentucky, Kentucky House, Kentucky Senate, KyHP Funding, News Worthy at 2:31 pm by Thomas

Erik A. Carlson and Susan Baniak of Business Lexington have written an outstanding article on the current situation in regards to the needed funds for the Horse Park. This article goes into great depths on a number of aspects and is appropriately titled, “Frankfort Holds the reins“. By permission of Tom Martin we are re-posting here in its entirety. The original article can be found here on the Business Lexington site.

02.16.07

Fund The Horse Park Stadium Now

Posted in 2010 Games, BusinessLexington, Funding, Government, Governor Fletcher, Kentucky, Kentucky House, Kentucky Senate, KyHP Funding, Legislation, News Worthy at 11:21 pm by Thomas

Tom Martin, Editor in Chief of Business Lexington wrote a compelling article on the need to provide the additional funding now for the Horse Park as proposed by Governor Fletcher in his State of the Commonwealth Address. This article also speaks to the importance of this opportunity to all Kentuckians across the state.

We thank Mr. Martin for allowing us to repost his article and for his efforts in promoting this cause that we also feel so strongly for.

Fund The Horse Park Stadium Now
By Tom Martin, Editor in chief
Business Lexington

Governor Fletcher’s recent call on the General Assembly to fund a $24 million outdoor arena at the Kentucky Horse Park is far more urgent than even recent press reports, including our own, have implied.

The Fayette County legislative delegation must “get this” and must close ranks immediately in a unified demand that House Speaker Jody Richards and Senate President David Williams cease their resistance to revising the current budget to provide these funds.

There is no time to quarrel over who is at fault for allowing this situation to become so serious and at such an 11th hour. We will sort that out later.

Right now, all of us here in Kentucky need to understand that in 3 short years we are going to represent the entire United States on live television broadcast worldwide by NBC and in other media from scores of nations. We need to appreciate the generous $10 million sponsorship of Alltech and to respect the industry that, more than any other, positively defines Kentucky culture.

Here is the situation.

When in 2006 the Fletcher administration requested initial funds for Horse Park improvements, the intent at the time was to demonstrate to the organizing body, the Federation Equestre Internationale, that Kentucky has the wherewithal to become the first-ever site outside of Europe to host the prestigious World Equestrian Games. It wasn’t until Kentucky officials actually traveled to the ’06 Games in Aachen, Germany that they realized the necessity of a permanent outdoor arena.

Time is of the essence. Best estimates project a 9-month planning and design process followed by a 12-month construction phase. And that doesn’t account for the inevitable delays. Even in a best case scenario, with funding provided in the ’07 session, construction could not begin until after the 2008 Rolex Three Day Event.

The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games are scheduled for late summer of 2010. The Horse Park, however, is required to host a series of test events in preparation for the games. Those test events must get underway no later than the spring of 2009.

According to Malina Gueorguiev, Communications Manager, Fédération Equestre Internationale in Lausanne, Switzerland, “We do organize an event for the specialists to go in and see if, for example, a new ground has been put in place; to run on that new ground to see how good it is because for the horses, it’s key.” Gueorguiev added, “Any event in the world does not match the standards of the World Equestrian Games. It’s a really, really exceptional event.”

Indeed. It is an exceptional event for all of Kentucky, not just the Bluegrass. The anticipated economic impact spreads far and wide, enriching industries ranging from human hospitality to equine support.

Whether you live in Paducah, Ashland, Louisville, Somerset or Dry Ridge, you live in a state that, when perceived positively by the rest of the world, is viewed as “The Horse State.”

Think we have a corner on this? Think again. Maryland, among other states, is breathing down our necks.

The state has completed a feasibility study for a parcel of land in Anne Arundel County and is currently in the process of putting in a bid for long-term control of the property. If their bid is accepted, they estimate it will take roughly three years and an investment of $114 million in capital costs to get the Maryland Horse Park up and running, said Rob Burk, executive director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board, part of Maryland’s Department of Agriculture.

When asked about the long-term economic value of that investment, Burk said they looked to Kentucky, as well as other state horse parks.

“For us it really came to light through the feasibility study when we were looking at the economic impact of not only the Kentucky Park but other parks around the country,” Burk said. “From a state’s perspective, we look at the amount of taxes that are actually generated through the park. For us, we came up with a number of about $11 million that would be generated each year for a similar facility to Kentucky’s. And that’s really how we justify the capital costs of a facility like this.”

That doesn’t count the estimated annual economic impact of more than $100 million for Maryland businesses, and that’s without an event like the World Equestrian Games.

Burk compares a horse park to both a centralized farmers market for the equine industry and a convention center.

“The way we look at it is it really is a place for the public to interact, to put money into our industry” said Burk, who added that a sales facility has also been folded into the Maryland Horse Park design. “Since we can’t have a farmer’s market stand for a horse necessarily, the states have created these (parks) as large markets where they can advertise, in your case what Kentucky has to offer, in our case what Maryland has to offer.”

“From an industry standpoint, and I think most heads of the industry will agree, the future of our sport really does lie in these facilities,” Burk added. “They are one of the most promising things for our sport.”

Kentucky must remain preeminent in the horse industry. The ultimate purpose of the proposed outdoor arena extends well beyond its use in the 2010 Games. A new outdoor stadium, along with the new indoor arena, makes possible the National Equestrian Festival, an annual weeklong mega-event expected to attract 75,000 spectators producing a regional economic impact of $75 million. In addition, events such as this will enable the Horse Park to reach its goal of becoming self-sufficient –as in free of dependence on taxpayer dollars– by 2012.

We understand the reluctance of legislative leaders to re-open the budget in what is supposed to be a brief, non-budgetary session. Indeed, when voters added the odd-year short session it wasn’t meant to decide the entire biennial budget, but certainly the intent wasn’t to have the 138 members of the legislature trot to Frankfort only to pass bills that didn’t cost the state a dime. The intent was to keep the governor from calling special session after special session to alleviate issues that came up in the 20 months between the end of one session and the start of another.

Few will recall that the 2007 Kentucky General Assembly appropriated $24 million for a stadium. But who would forget that the politicians in Frankfort cost our state…and nation…such an important economic driver as the World Equestrian Games?

Is the level of urgency actually that high? Consider this: France, Holland and Ireland all lost the Games to other countries or failed to execute the event well, all related to failure to live up to promises made during the bidding process.

When asked if the WEG coming for the first time to the United States had generated any excitement in Maryland, Burk said there was still quite a bit of indifference among the general public. He feels certain that will change once people understand the scope of it better.

“I’m sure once the Equestrian Games get here, and we are able to show and demonstrate the statistics as far as the economic impact of this type of event, it will garner interest, especially from the legislators,” Burk said. “But until that time I think there is kind of a detachment here in Maryland.”

We know the feeling. Hopefully, we can generate that kind of interest among our own legislators before the world is arriving on our doorstep.

Let this not be lost on any of us. It is time to act. Call your legislator and let him or her know that you are in favor of spending dimes to generate dollars.

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