Making the World Safe for
the Horse Park
by Timothy Capps
May 10 was a launch date of sorts for the Maryland Horse Park concept. That was the day that the Maryland Stadium Authority released its feasibility study for the “Maryland Horse Park and Agricultural Education Center” at the former Naval Academy Dairy Farm site near Gambrills.
|This is meaningful because it is unusual. As an example, the world-renowned Kentucky Horse Park runs at an operating loss every year but brings so much business to the Lex-
ington area – not to mention the positive image it projects for the state – that legislators are comfortable supporting the operation. Estimates on the Maryland Horse Park in Anne
Arundel County indicate that it would break even operationally, at worst.
Remember, too, that the study is almost certainly very conservative in its economic projections, given the population base, demographics and tourism potential in the Baltimore-Washington market. Never has an equestrian facility of this caliber been constructed in the United States in such a setting, and those best ac-
quainted with this project feel that it is likely to significantly exceed the economic forecasts that are part of the MSA study. They also feel that it would provide Maryland with a unique, environmentally sensitive attraction that is a wonderful offset to the rapid residential and retail development that is consuming so much of central Maryland.
Back to Politics
So why aren’t we talking about a timetable for execution, instead of wringing hands over whether this can happen?
The answer, of course, is that this is a political project, something that realistically will only get done with the support of local and state government.
You’re probably saying, “God, not politics again.” However, projects of this magnitude, which are intended for public use, essentially happen because their economic and aesthetic values are too compelling to ignore. For these reasons, there are stadiums in downtown Baltimore with professional baseball and football teams, along with convention and conference centers and other facilities that add to the “public weal.”
For the Maryland Horse Park to become a place you can visit and enjoy, the Maryland horse industry has to engage in the political process and make this a priority until the day that ribbon is cut at the park’s opening.
The 2006 elections are, of course,
pivotal on a number of levels, in-
cluding the opportunity to move
the horse park initiative forward.
Talking It Up
The focus, of course, needs to be on the Naval Academy site in Anne Arundel County, which has the ideal size, location and agricultural heritage to be a world-class equestrian park. This means active support of a public awareness campaign mounted by local supporters of the horse park initiative, both as a means of informing Anne Arundel’s citizens
about the particulars – the site plan and the economic impact – and keeping elected officials (and aspiring elected officials) in touch with the idea.
Support is a seven-letter word for you. The Maryland Horse Council will serve as a conduit for industry support of the horse park through a combination of volunteer work, financial assistance to the newly formed Anne Arundel Horse Council, and political action.
None of this can happen, though, unless you and other industry participants donate money and energy to the cause.
To get this dream to the groundbreaking stage will require a meaningful ongoing effort to “talk up” the idea – not only in the horse community, but in Anne Arundel County, with the elected officials who make the decisions to move such projects forward. That will take both
people and money; not a huge amount, but enough to stir the political fires at the county and state levels.
This is NOT a test. It is, instead, an opportunity to create something that will be a lasting signature for the horse industry and the state of Maryland.
We can choose to be world class, or settle for “same old” class.
Editor’s Note: Timothy Capps is
the former executive vice president
of the Maryland Jockey Club and,
before that, the Maryland Horse
Breeders Association. He is cur-
rently working as a consultant in
© The Equiery 2010