Pictured, a young rider competing in Horsepark’s Grand Prix grass ring during better times.
At the June 8th meeting, the 22nd DAA board unanimously voted to instruct staff to prepare an RFP to turn Horsepark operations over to an independent third party. As you may recall, the 22nd DAA shut down Horsepark at the end of 2020 citing water quality remediation costs even though it appeared that no shutdown was necessary.
The resultant contract from this RFP would essentially be a medium to long term ground lease with the operator running any and all operations and paying some agreed to amount back to the 22nd DAA. The operator would also have to pay all costs related to water quality remediation and allow the 22nd DAA to turn the entire property into a parking lot during the annual three week fair, as they’ve been doing since the 22nd DAA bought Horsepark. The RFP is expected to be issued by mid July with responses due by the end of July.
Having a competent for profit commercial operator run Horsepark brings up the possibility of Horsepark being marketed for many other uses in addition to equestrian shows. Examples might include other animal shows, such as dog shows, a farmer’s market, low key concerts, a permanent dog park, and permanent restaurants. The property is so big and well situated, you can let your imagination run wild. With a motivated high energy leader, Horsepark could be turned into a jewel by the sea. While the RFP will undoubtedly be looking for an operator interested in running other kinds of event and activities, hopefully they will also put a premium on an operator willing to invest money into the venue. If it is simply used as is, it will be a missed opportunity.
I talked to two potential bidders and they are both very happy the 22nd DAA has decided to go the RFP route. Dale Harvey said Horsepark should be considered like a public park and used in that way. Ali Nilforushan said he was beyond happy about the decision and that his mind was racing at 100 miles an hour thinking of all the possible uses for the facility. Both are experienced equestrian show operators.
The devil will be in the details. Will the 22nd DAA give access to equipment such as tractors to maintain Horsepark? How long a lease term are they envisioning? What happens if either side terminates the lease? These finer points will likely be negotiated once an operator is selected. Hopefully losing bidders won’t challenge the award which would delay getting Horsepark back to operation.
Click here to read the 22nd DAA staff report recommending the issuance of the RFP.