Family puts Papago Riding Stables land on the market - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Family puts Papago Riding Stables land on the market

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Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2011 3:01 pm | Updated: 1:10 pm, Fri Mar 25, 2011.

In the office at Papago Riding Stables in Tempe sits a scrapbook that documents how time has stood still at the facility as change has sprung up everywhere around it.

Aerial photos from the 1960s show the stables surrounded by mountain terrain and the Salt River, with Sun Devil Stadium the only recognizable structure nearby. Pictures taken in the decades since demonstrate how progress took over, one construction project at a time.

Arizona State University added athletic facilities; stores, bars, restaurants, apartments and office buildings were erected, a freeway was built, and the once-dry river became a man-made lake. Yet, the Papago Stables remain, on 4.58 acres of land just west of Scottsdale Road that looks pretty much the same as when the facility opened in 1967.

"More people are coming into the area, and you have to find ways to mix this business with the joggers and bicyclists you see at the lake all of the time," said Wayne Scott, who operates the stables that were founded by his parents, Bill and Sam. "I still think there's a place for a business like this in a metropolitan area.

"But, like you see with the dairies, you can have problems when you run into development."

While Scott believes in the value of the stables, which boards horses for their owners and allows visitors to ride on trails in nearby Papago Park, he concedes that the facility could be in the process of galloping its course. The land is on the market, with a list price of $8 million.

"The family has decided that we will sell for the right price," Scott said. "We know the market is bad, but it's a good deal. There's a lot of retail and rental space nearby, and the recreation, with the Town Lake and everything else, is awesome."

The family was close to selling the stables near the end of the Valley's real-estate boom in the 2000s. But Scott said the buyer sensed the market decline and backed out.

Now, Scott - who has seven siblings, all who have been part of the stables' operations - said that the family will not sell just to sell. The price has to be right, because tending to horses has been a way of life that is not given up easily.

Still, the potential sale of the facility would be felt by some of its regular visitors.

"They didn't get an offer, did they?" Sara Sansone of Phoenix said, smiling, when approached by a reporter.

Sansone was at the stables with her sons, Landen, 5, and Evan, 2. She brings them about once a week to feed and ride some of the 75 horses housed there.

"They love the horses," Sansone said. "They've been coming since they were born, pretty much. We'll get a 10-pound bag of carrots from Costco and watch the horses eat the whole thing. It would be almost nice if this wasn't on lakefront property. Maybe people wouldn't think about building condos or something else here."

Of the 45 horses that are boarded at the Papago Stables, most of the owners live within a 10-mile radius, Scott said.

Joe Anderson of Tempe boards a horse at the stables, as does his brother. He said the central location and easy freeway access is the stables' biggest asset.

"It has everything we need," Anderson said. "I guess the saving grace is, given the market conditions, there may not be a bunch of people chomping to get the land right now. ...

"I've lived here a long time, and my family used to picnic in (Papago Park) a lot, so I knew the stables were here. I'd see people riding into the park, and this was 30 or 40 years ago. So, that tells you how long they have been around."

This is not the first time the stables' future has been uncertain. The office scrapbook includes newspaper articles about how development could overtake the facility. Eminent domain claimed two acres of the Scotts' land to make way for the Loop 202; the family used some of the funds to open a horse boarding facility in north Scottsdale.

Scott said some of the proceeds from a Papago Stables sale could be used to open another boarding facility, enabling the family to stay in the horse business. But any new stables will be hard-pressed to match the longevity of those in Tempe that have seemed oblivious to change.

"Eventually, we know that this place will be developed, sooner or later," Scott said. "For our family, it will be the end of a chapter and the start of another one."

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