FRANKFORT — Kentucky Horse Park executive director John Nicholson defended the park's increased budget request, saying Tuesday that its $3.6 million deficit resulted from "unique, unprecedented circumstances that will not recur."
Nicholson's remarks came as he explained Gov. Steve Beshear's request for extra money for the park to the House and Senate budget committees. The park will need an additional $3.5 million from the state General Fund this fiscal year, and an extra $3.2 million over the next two years, according to a recommendation in Beshear's proposed budget.
Nicholson said the deficit began with the 2008 recession, when higher gas prices reduced the number of horses per show. In subsequent years, the park also was affected by construction for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. And a new arena and larger outdoor stadium have contributed to much higher utility bills, he said.
But Nicholson told lawmakers that new horse shows and other events drawn to the upgraded facilities will help the park meet future budget plans.
Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, asked about the prospect of the park becoming self-sufficient.
"We would still need General Fund appropriations," but not to eliminate existing deficits, Nicholson said. He also said the park was pursuing an on-site hotel to make it a more attractive prospect for equine-related conventions and other events.