The U.S. Equestrian Federation, a longtime tenant of the Kentucky Horse Park, has signed a letter of intent with the state to build a new 30,000-square-foot headquarters at the state park in Lexington, according to Tandy Patrick, chairwoman of the Kentucky Horse Park Commission.
Patrick announced at a meeting on Wednesday that the federation plans to build on approximately 3 acres near the main entrance to the park, in what is now a parking lot, and occupy the new facility in the next few years.
As the Olympic governing body for U.S. equestrian teams, the USEF hopes to display the Olympic rings on the new building, she said.
USEF president-elect Murray Kessler said late Wednesday that the organization had been paying rent well above the market price. The lease on the current building expires in 2019. The new arrangement will “save our membership hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and we get to stay in the Kentucky Horse Park.
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“We’re responsible to our membership, so it just didn’t make financial sense to stay where we are or buy the existing building at the price it was offered,” Kessler said. “So we started an exploratory project to evaluate alternatives. ... The new commission, Tandy Patrick, Secretary (of Tourism, Arts and Heritage) Don Parkinson, all the way to the governor, all jumped on this and said they wanted us to stay, and couldn’t have been better to work with.”
Patrick said that the federation, which is an anchor for the more than 30 equine-related organizations at the park, had been considering moving to downtown Lexington and “that would not have been good (for the Horse Park).”
The state negotiated the new deal to keep the premier horse sport organization at the park in only four days, she said.
Patrick said that the existing 25,000-square-foot building occupied by the USEF headquarters may be leased, possibly to multiple tenants.
In other business, the commission voted unanimously to approve a revised policy for members who are also on the non-profit Kentucky Horse Park Foundation board. According to Patrick, the new policy mandates that appointed commissioners be non-voting members of the foundation, adhere to state conflict-of-interest rules, and maintain primary allegiance to the commission.
The foundation provides funding for the park improvements as well as ongoing expenses not covered by the state. It has raised more than $30 million for the Horse Park through private donations and the annual Southern Lights event at the park.
This was the second commission meeting with the board appointed last month by Gov. Matt Bevin and the first meeting under new executive director Laura Prewitt.
The park is searching for new revenue sources and Prewitt said they will host the first-ever cattle show there soon: The National Junior Limousin Show begins Friday.
Patrick said the park also has put in a bid for the annual Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show, a saddlebred competition that brings about 1,000 horses to the Red Mile, a harness track downtown, every July. This year’s edition is running through Saturday at the Red Mile.
“We’ve met with some representatives and gotten them some information that they asked for from us,” Prewitt said.