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Local enthusiasts eye stadium property for equestrian center

Wanda Wood leads horse Ebony with her granddaughter, Ana Garcia, 4, riding on top Tuesday at Lakewood Farm in western York County. Horse and livestock lovers want to build an equestrian center in the county.
Wanda Wood leads horse Ebony with her granddaughter, Ana Garcia, 4, riding on top Tuesday at Lakewood Farm in western York County. Horse and livestock lovers want to build an equestrian center in the county.

Horse and livestock lovers in York County want to create a year-round equestrian center -- maybe at Knights Stadium -- and County Council members this week helped them take a first step.

Council members on Monday agreed to give the group between $25,000 and $100,000 from hospitality tax money to study the feasibility and economic impact of a multiuse agricultural and equestrian center.

Carol Deacon, interim president of South Carolina Horsemen's Council and Rock Hill riding instructor, said during Monday's presentation the idea sprung from the York County Tourism Summit held in February.

The center could house rodeos, camps and events already held on private property in addition to bringing new shows, exhibits and festivals to the county, said York County Visitor's Bureau Executive Director Bennish Brown.

"If we had a facility, we could take advantage of bringing people in instead of sending our residents elsewhere to spend money," Brown said. "We think the multi-use facility is what we need, but we want a feasibility study to tell us the answer."

Hospitality tax money to be used for the research comes from a 2 percent tax assessed on prepared food and drinks served at restaurants and bars in unincorporated areas. State law requires the money be spent on tourism-related marketing and attractions. The county expects to collect about $1 million from the tax this year.

With the money promised, Brown said the next step will be identifying the questions that need answered.

A group of volunteers representing 4-H and other equestrian and agricultural groups have been meeting since May to address the needs of their community. One of those representatives, Wanda Wood, she thinks a facility like this would be "great for the area."

"We did a lot of homework on how much money it could generate for the county," said Wood, who breeds and boards horses at Lakewood Farm near York. "I think it's a major breakthrough for the agriculture in the area."

York County has the seventh-largest equine population in the state and more than 50 breeds, Wade Fairey Jr. said during the presentation.

The group brought research and studies of other facilities to the council, and Deacon said the average agriculture tourist spends $62 a day.

"This is the positive side of York County. This is what people want to hear," Deacon said. "Time is right for us to get other, and start moving along."

One possible option for the facility is enclosing Knights Stadium because of its proximity to hotels and amenities, but other more rural areas could be considered. The Knights won't need the county-owned 32 acres between I-77 and U.S. 21 when a stadium is built in Charlotte.

"We want the study to suggest the location," Brown said. "We knew the property (Knights Stadium) could potentially be available and is already used for tourism."

None of the council members were opposed to giving the group hospitality tax funds for an economic impact and feasibility study.

"I see all the trailers on the road," Councilman Rick Lee said. "They might as well stop here."

7

York County's equine population rank in the state

15+

Large-scale farm show and equestrian arenas in the country

50+

Horse breeds in York County

51

Weeks annually that a similar facility, Clemson University's T. Ed Garrison Arena, is booked

$62

Average amount an agriculture tourist spends a day

300+

Listed supporters of the new facility

$17 million

Annual amount Agricenter Show Place Arena and Prince George Equestrian Center brings the Upper Marlboro, Md., community

-- Source: Agri-tourism community presentation to York County Council

7

York County's equine population rank in the state

15+

Large-scale farm show and equestrian arenas in the country

50+

Horse breeds in York County

51

Weeks annually that a similar facility, Clemson University's T. Ed Garrison Arena, is booked

$62

Average amount an agriculture tourist spends a day

300+

Listed supporters of the new facility

$17 million

Annual amount Agricenter Show Place Arena and Prince George Equestrian Center brings the Upper Marlboro, Md., community

-- Source: Agri-tourism community presentation to York County Council

7

York County's equine population rank in the state

15+

Large-scale farm show and equestrian arenas in the country

50+

Horse breeds in York County

51

Weeks annually that a similar facility, Clemson University's T. Ed Garrison Arena, is booked

$62

Average amount an agriculture tourist spends a day

300+

Listed supporters of the new facility

$17 million

Annual amount Agricenter Show Place Arena and Prince George Equestrian Center brings the Upper Marlboro, Md., community

-- Source: Agri-tourism community presentation to York County Council

7

York County's equine population rank in the state

15+

Large-scale farm show and equestrian arenas in the country

50+

Horse breeds in York County

51

Weeks annually that a similar facility, Clemson University's T. Ed Garrison Arena, is booked

$62

Average amount an agriculture tourist spends a day

300+

Listed supporters of the new facility

$17 million

Annual amount Agricenter Show Place Arena and Prince George Equestrian Center brings the Upper Marlboro, Md., community

-- Source: Agri-tourism community presentation to York County Council

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