Bluegrass Stallions basketball team to leave Horse Park arena

The owner of the financially struggling Bluegrass Stallions said Thursday that he has terminated the team's contract with the Kentucky Horse Park arena.

Sunday's 3 p.m. game against the Louisville Crusaders will be played at the arena. But Tony Chase said he is working to schedule the remaining home games at arenas in Corbin and Frankfort and might use a high school gym in Lexington next season.

Chase said the arena wasn't the best fit for the Stallions or the Horse Park.

He said Lexington's professional basketball team is not in danger of folding, and he expects it to turn a profit in three years. But Chase said the first season has been financially challenging.

"It has been a losing proposition and probably more so than I expected," he said. "We certainly had difficulties with attendance."

Chase said he is behind in paying 25 percent of the Stallions' vendors but said he has the funds reserved to pay the Stallions' Horse Park bill, due Monday — about $3,000 for each of 10 games.

Chase said the team is leaving the Horse Park because the Stallions were going to have to spend an additional $13,000 to remove and later reinstall the basketball floor to accommodate another Horse Park event.

Kentucky Horse Park executive director John Nicholson said the Stallions' obligation involving the floor was part of the team's contract. Nicholson said that the Stallions were not in arrears and that he has no reason to think they cannot settle their one-year contract amicably.

Outside of the World Equestrian Games later this year, 27 equestrian events have been scheduled for the arena, said Nicholson.

While the arena is primarily for equestrian events, Nicholson said the fact that the Stallions' arrangement failed doesn't rule out the arena's use for other activities like concerts.

Bobby Perry, a former University of Kentucky player who plays for the Stallions, said he has been paid in a timely fashion. Chase said the Stallions' staff also has been paid.

But the Stallions, who have a 7-6 record in the American Basketball Association, have had missteps in their first season, Chase said.

They lost their first home game — to the No. 2 team in the league.

At another game, Chase said some Stallions fans left the Horse Park because they didn't like having to take an additional 30- to 40-minute drive through the Southern Lights Christmas display to get to the arena.

Attendance hasn't met the expectations that Chase had set, he said. There were 2,706 for the first game on Nov. 29, which included a giveaway of 1,000 tickets.

Since then, attendance has ranged from 550 to 1,200 in the 5,500-seat arena, he said. Ticket prices are $1 to $30.

In addition to the rent, Chase said it cost a total of $7,000 for the Stallions to produce each home game. The Horse Park gets the parking revenue.

Chase said he is using money from other businesses he owns to keep the team afloat. Primarily, Chase is the CEO of a software company.

Other professional sport teams have struggled recently in Kentucky.

The Kentucky Horsemen, an indoor professional football team that played at Rupp Arena, folded in October.

Half a dozen minor league professional basketball teams have started up in the state in the last two years, only to fold.

In addition to the Stallions, other American Basketball Association teams are playing in Pikeville, Owensboro and Louisville.

Despite the problems, Perry said the fan base is building.

"Our brand of basketball is real entertaining," said the former UK player.