Site, Contractor Chosen for Horse Park Arena

The talking is done. Now, it’s on to the next phase after the Florida Horse Park board of directors on Thursday selected both the final site and the contractor for a covered arena, which will be funded by a $2 million award given by Gov. Rick Scott in May.

The board selected McLauchlin and Company as the contractor for the arena, which is expected to cost an estimated $1.8 million.

A week ago, the board was faced with a conundrum after it became clear that if the arena was built in its intended place — per the park’s master plan — it would set up a situation where once other planned facilities, including an indoor arena and a show jumping stadium, were built, they would encroach on the current eventing and driving courses.

If not for those disciplines paying for use of the facility for the past several years, the park may not have survived.

Two choices were presented to the full board on Thursday after the board’s executive committee spent several days discussing multiple options.

Eventually, the final decision was probably the easiest. The original layout was moved up to hug a tree line. A large water retention area planned for that area was elongated and expanded to another area.

But one board member, Leslie Law, a well-known eventer, was concerned that the master plan seemed lacking in adequate areas for horses and riders to warm up.

“There is nowhere to get ready. There is one or two horses in the arena, but there are 30 or 40 horses trotting, walking, cantering around. If you have no warm up, people won’t come,” Law said.

Law’s concerns were allayed by Jim Payton, the board’s treasurer.

“We always talk about the master plan, but the master plan is a conceptual plan; it’s not carved in granite anywhere,” Payton said, adding that Law’s concerns wouldn’t need to be addressed until well into the future.

The horse park was created in 1996 by an act of the Florida Legislature and covers 500 acres in southeast Marion County off County Road 475. It has an estimated total cost of between $60 mlllion and $70 million. The arena is the first significant step toward the proposed facilities.

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By Carlos E. Medina
Published: Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 9:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 9:41 p.m.