Q.C. considers $1M for park, equestrian center - East Valley Tribune: News

Q.C. considers $1M for park, equestrian center

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Posted: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 8:21 pm | Updated: 3:50 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Queen Creek could spend more than $1 million improving and marketing Horseshoe Park & Equestrian Centre in an effort to bring more money into the town, based on two items in front of the Town Council Wednesday night.

Queen Creek could spend more than $1 million improving and marketing Horseshoe Park and Equestrian Centre in an effort to bring more money into the town, based on two items in front of the Town Council Wednesday night.

That vote is scheduled to come the same night the council will decide whether to delay a family rodeo scheduled for next month at the park, which has had trouble attracting sponsors due to the economy and the workload of the Parks and Recreation staff this year. Under a proposal, the family rodeo would be delayed until January and combined with a larger promotional event at the park.

The staff proposal to make a little more than $1 million in improvements to the $17 million park and hire a manager for the facility, which would cost $108,000 to $119,000 in salary and benefits each year, is based on a review of how to increase cost recovery at the facility by Town Manager John Kross. And that, in turn, came out of a council goal to make Horseshoe Park a regional event facility that generates economic activity, Kross said.

The $1.02 million would include improvements such as doubling the seating at the facility, adding 100 covered stalls, adding a marquee sign and improving drainage and lighting.

The facility has been successful at attracting small events - 91 events that generated $97,262 in revenues, a 27 percent cost recovery - but needs additional improvements before it could attract larger events, Kross said.

For instance, the town tried to attract the American Mounted Shooters World Finals and the Arizona Arabian Horse Association, but both groups needed more barns, Kross said. Championship Bull Riding needed more seats.

Once those improvements are in place, a manager would be able to go out and attract those larger events, Kross said.

"The manager and the capital improvements are inextricably linked in my view," he said. "There's really no need for that position if we don't make those capital improvements, because we couldn't reach the needs of those larger events."

With those improvements and a manager, Kross projects the facility could have up to 50 percent cost recovery in a couple years.

Calling Horseshoe Park a "park" is almost a misnomer, Kross said, since it's meant as an event center that will bring in money. In contrast, the $7.5 million Desert Mountain Park, which was meant as a more general-use park, has around a 5 percent cost recovery each year.

Councilman Jon Wootten said the improvements and manager have always been in the park's plan. They were removed from the first phase to save money in an uncertain economy, he said.

But now that the park has proven it is attractive to small events, it's important to put in those improvements now to realize its potential, he said.

"It's all about bringing people to town and having them spend their money. Getting them down the road," Wootten said. "We need to generate reasons for that traffic to come to town."

But Councilman Craig Barnes, who is at a National League of Cities and Towns conference this week in Washington, D.C., had a different take. After sitting in on several economic development sessions, he said the money might be better spent on increasing the size of the town's Economic Development Department so the staff can go out, meet with businesses and try to attract them to town.

"If it's truly for economic development, I think they have to re-look at it and put more money into the Chamber of Commerce and put more people under (Economic Development Director) Doreen (Cott) to bring in jobs," Barnes said. "At this point in time, I think people would be furious if we put another $1 million into Horseshoe Park."

Hiring a manager and making certain improvements to the park, such as lighting, could help attract events, Barnes said. But for now, the town should work on advertising the events that are already there to get people to the park before investing that much money in it, Barnes said. Barnes hosted an event at the park last weekend for the American Legion and said it was difficult to attract residents because they couldn't put up signs and advertise.

But Wootten said the Horsehoe Park items are an economic development issue. The improvements would attract more large events to town and the manager would market the entire town, not just the park, he said.

"We've got a group of users who are excited about the park. The interest is on the upswing," Wootten said. "Now is the time to hit these promoters, the folks who have interest, and get them hooked. My fear is if we wait, they will find another place."

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