Florida Horse Park Eyes RV Campground
Operators of the not-for-profit Florida Horse Park near Ocala, Fla., have included an RV campground in their long-range planning.
"We're in the planning phase right now," said Margaret Rowell, development director for the park. "One of our very generous donors hired a product development firm to do a visualization product development study. That process is ending in the next couple of weeks. That will give us a vision of what we want the horse park to look like."
Rowell said once they have an idea of how the park will look, they plan to do a marketing study to see if it will be economically feasible. They are also working with an architect, who will handle the actual site plan, according to the Ocala Business Journal.
Executive Director Jon Barber said these initial studies will help show what the next generation horse park should be.
"Realistically, the first thing to happen would be to create an environment and construct facilities to best serve the competitors and the visitors we already have," Barber said. "We're underserved right now and we want to get the proper facilities. For the future, we want to as quickly as possible grow the park – stalls, RV sites, a covered arena."
Topping the improvement list, Rowell said, is basic infrastructure improvements such as water and sewer, which would be a welcome change considering the staff and visitors currently use portable toilets.
Last February, Bill Fruth, president/CEO of Policom, conducted an economic impact study for the park. Fruth said the park has all the ingredients for success, including warm weather, access to interstate highways and a sufficient amount of land. What the park lacks, he said, are revenue-producing facilities: horse stalls, campsites and an indoor arena.
According to Fruth, the park currently has about a $15 million economic impact. As the park grows, he believes the economic benefits could reach $75 million annually, which translates into about 1,300 new jobs and $28 million in earnings.
"Marion County is the horse capital of the world and we have very strong support from the business community," Barber said. "I don't see that going away. Of course the economy affects all businesses and it certainly will be a factor. To what extent, we won't know until is all unfolds. We're doing fairly well in sponsorships this year relative to last year so we haven't seen a real downturn at this point."
Rowell said the park hosts about 80 events during the year, including five international events and 10 national events. She said the improvements they're planning will allow them to provide facilities for different breeds and disciplines they haven't been able to reach in the past and she thinks the community will continue to support their efforts.
For now, the park plans to finish the site plan and prepare for their busy season, between now and April. Rowell said at that point, they'll start "whatever project needs to happen first, sometime this summer."