January 18, 2002
HORSE PARKS AND THE STATE
By: Joseph R. Holstead, Research Analyst
You asked several questions about horse parks in the United States: (1) approximately how many there are, (2) if they are state-funded, (3) if they are seasonal, and (4) what is their economic impact. Included is information about the Connecticut Equestrian Center Corporation.
We identified 12 state horse parks in 10 states that have registered with the American Horse Council, the principal trade association. These represent the major horse parks in the United States. We contacted five of them for further information. Four are supported in some fashion by state government; the fifth is a county-owned and -operated facility. In four states (Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Virginia), quasi-public authorities govern the facilities. The parks generally operate seasonally. Their economic impact varies.
Park funding patterns vary. Georgia and Kentucky used state bonds to build their respective facilities; in Virginia the authority issued the bonds, although the state has paid debt service on them. State appropriations pay a portion of Kentucky Horse Park's operating expenses; nearly a third of the Georgia center's; and none of the expenses for the Virginia Horse Center, whose revenues are expected to cover all expenses. North Carolina's Agri-Center was a state-owned facility operated by its Agriculture Department. But in 1997, it became an Enterprise Agency of the state, which means that the General Assembly no longer appropriates its operating funds. Although built with state funds, the Agri-Center now generates all its funds from user fees. Indiana's Hoosier Horse Park is county-owned. It was built with private funds on land donated by the county. Its operating budget is part of the county park department budget.
The parks' economic impact vary from $ 15 million for the North Carolina Agri-Center to $ 132 million for the Kentucky Horse Park. The economic impact comes in large part from taxes generated by events at the various parks.
In 1996, the General Assembly created the Connecticut Equestrian Center Corporation to promote the development of a horse park in the state. The corporation's primary goal, under the act, is to attract large equestrian events and related trade shows, exhibitions, and activities. The corporation depends on private investment to fund any projects; it has received no state funding to date. A flurry of interest in 1999 for creating a horse park in Hartford's Keney Park and connecting it to Adriaen's Landing faded. The corporation's board has not met in over a year.
HORSE PARKS FUNDING AND GOVERNANCE
The Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter is a multipurpose state fairgrounds and livestock exhibition facility that is operated by a state quasi-public authority. The nine-member authority represents the state's agriculture and business interests.
The agricenter complex is part of the fairgrounds operation; the equestrian facilities are part of the agricenter. The agricenter rents its horse and livestock facilities to private groups. The fairgrounds runs a 10-day fair during which time the agricenter runs a 4-H livestock show.
The authority built the fairgrounds and agricenter facilities, which opened in 1990, using state bond funds. State appropriations fund less than one-third of the operation's annual budget (about $ 2 million of a $ 6. 9 million operating budget this year). Authority comptroller, Ron Goldsby, explained, the authority's primary focus is on youth and agriculture. Therefore, many of the events and activities involving these two areas are priced in a way that requires the state to subsidize them on a continuing basis.
However, Goldsby notes that capitalizing on non-agricultural and non-youth related events, such as, rodeos; horse, canine and wildlife shows; gun and knife shows; car and boat shows; and RV conventions and rallys has enabled the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter to reduce significantly its dependency on state appropriations.
Kentucky Horse Park is owned and operated by the state, which built the park with general obligation bonds and continues to pay for capital purchases and improvements. It is governed by the quasi-public Kentucky Horse Commission, an 18-member board appointed by the governor. The park's operating budget for FY 2001-02 is $ 6. 5 million: the legislature will provide approximately $ 1. 5 million to the park and the commission expects to generate nearly $ 5 million from park events. The legislature bonded an additional $ 475,000 for minor capital improvement projects.
The park is a combination entertainment and horse show facility. It both rents the horse show facilities to private organizations and sponsors two of its own shows a year. The park has several main activity centers. There is a large central complex designed for tourists, which includes a museum, movies, and daily live horse shows. There is the horse show event complex that has about 1,200 permanent horse stalls and many competition rings. It hosts approximately 65 horse shows per year. The park has campgrounds with 260 sites that include water and electric hook-ups. The park grounds house the National Horse Center, which hosts the business offices of over 15 horse related organizations including the U. S. Equestrian Team.
The Virginia Horse Center is operated by the quasi-public Equine Center Foundation. The center was developed with proceeds of foundation-issued bonds. Although not statutorily obligated to do so, the state has been paying the debt service on these bonds, a center representative reports.
The center is solely responsible for its operating expenses; the state pays no part of them. Expenses are paid from rental and concession income and supplemented, as necessary, by the fund-raising efforts of the private Virginia Horse Center Foundation. This foundation also raises funds to endow the center's future operations and improvements.
The Equine Center Foundation has 11 members, 10 appointed by the governor plus the commissioner of agriculture and consumer services. The 10 members represent the Virginia Horse Council, the Horse Center Foundation, and other various horse industry interests (Va. Stat. Ann. 3. 1-22. 31 et seq. ).
The Western North Carolina (WNC) Agri-Center is a livestock exhibition facility that has operated as an enterprise agency of the state government since 1997. An enterprise agency is created by the state as an independent body that funds and runs itself (similar to a quasi-public agency in Connecticut like the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority). The WNC Agri-Center has generated all of its operating funds from user fees since becoming an enterprise agency. This has been challenging, according to Louis Johnson, assistant marketing manager.
The state paid for the center's capital facilities and still appropriates funds for capital improvement and major repairs as needed. The center's operational budget for FY 2001-02 is $ 725,974.
The center rents its facilities for of all types of livestock exhibits and shows. In 2001, it hosted 123 different events, including the Hunter/Jumper Horse Show that features the National Pony Finals - a prestigious event in the horse community that made use of 950 horse stalls.
Hoosier Horse Park is county-owned, and its operating expenses are part of the county budget. All income from park rental fees for horse shows goes into the county General Fund; income from concessions goes into a separate fund to pay for capital improvements.
The park was originally built with private donations as part of the 1987 Pan American Games. It was later expanded using 50% private funds and 50% county funds.
We were able to obtain information about three of the Horse Parks' economic impact figures. Comptroller Goldsby of the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter reports that the facility's estimated 2001 economic impact on the state's economy (using a 1. 53 multiplier as determined by the University of Georgia's Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development) was approximately $ 71 million. Since its inception in 1990, the Georgia's horse park estimates its impact at nearly $ 683 million.
The Kentucky Horse Park estimated its economic impact for 1999 (the most recent data available) at $ 132 million, according to a park official. The Western North Carolina Agricultural Center estimates its economic impact on the western part of the state to be in excess of $ 15 million.
Although the horse parks are not always profitable as private businesses, struggling at times to break even, their benefits come from the taxes they generate and jobs they create, according to Frank Intino, the Department of Agriculture's appointee to the Connecticut Equestrian Center Corporation board. Taxes on gas, hotels, and other local attractions spur the economic impact.
The Connecticut Equestrian Center Corporation, created by SA 96-14, promotes the development of a horse park in the state. The corporation's primary goal is to attract large equestrian events and related trade shows, exhibitions, and activities. The act anticipates that the center would create new jobs, benefit the hospitality industry, broaden the state's tourist attractions, and stimulate economic development. The act gives the corporation broad powers, including the ability to buy or lease property, hire staff, and develop the center.
The act provides for a 16-member board of directors, with members appointed by the governor, legislative leaders, and the Friends of Keney Park, together with the agriculture and environmental protection commissioners, the mayors of Hartford and Bloomfield, and the Windsor town manager. (SA 97-7 added the commissioner of economic and community development. )
In 1999, the corporation hired an executive director, Barbara Tucker, and attempted to negotiate a lease with the city of Hartford for property at Keney Park. However, a deal was not struck. Attempts to link a possible horse park to Adriaen's Landing were also unsuccessful.
The state has been unwilling to contribute funds to the project and the corporation has been unable to find a suitable location or private investment. The corporation currently has no executive director and its board has not met in over a year, according to the Department of Agriculture.