Texas Horse Park is back on track, with different operators
By Jeff Mosier
2:44pm Dec. 12, 2012
The long delayed Texas Horse Park in southern Dallas is going forward.
The City Council voted 13-2 this morning to terminate the old contract with the park’s planned operator and then signed deals with two nonprofits to run the equestrian facility. The development and operations agreements went to Wylie-based Equest, which offers therapeutic equestrian programs, and River Ranch Education Charities, which operates a children’s horse riding program in Collin County.
The city contracted in 2006 with Texas Horse Park, Inc., a group of Dallas area horse enthusiasts. But that group was unable to meet its goal of raising $15 million. At a January update, it was revealed the group had only received about $1 million donations.
The city’s $12 million in 2006 bond funds is expected to pay for site preparation, two covered arenas, two outdoor arenas, 60 stalls, fenced pastures and pens, an activity center, pavilion and barbecue area. The nonprofits would operate commercial and charity programs at the site off of Loop 12 between Interstate 45 and U.S. Highway 175.
Texas Horse Park, Inc. would continue to help with fundraising but wouldn’t be involved in operations. Officials at Southern Methodist University have also discussed using the facility for its equestrian team. The SMU golf program is already planning to practice at the proposed Trinity Forest golf course planned just down the road from the horse park.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the council also agreed to increase by $747,673 the amount it’ll pay Brown Reynolds Watford Architects, Inc. for design and construction administration services. That contract is now for $4,402,978.
Council member Sandy Greyson, who opposed the current project along with Angela Hunt, said she was concerned the city might get stuck with future shortfall. She said fundraising failures for this project could hint at financial problems ahead.
Vonciel Jones Hill, one of the most vocal supporters of the park, compared this to other supposed risky projects to the north, such as Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, North Central Expressway, LBJ Freeway and the newly opened Klyde Warren Park.
The park’s original master plan envisioned a show and event center with community outreach activities added later. Now the focus has shifted to community outreach as its primary focus with the show facility a secondary option. As part of its contract, River Ranch will offer horseback riding and organize special event for the public and use proceeds to fund programs for the “underprivileged community.”