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York County officials ponder value of agri-tourism center

Ryan Morrison demonstrates how he uses his Cutting horse to move livestock at his ranch just outside of Rock Hill. The York County Council is considering building an agri-tourism center, which would include horse and livestock shows, among other events. Some critics wonder if such a project is wise given the sluggish economy.
Ryan Morrison demonstrates how he uses his Cutting horse to move livestock at his ranch just outside of Rock Hill. The York County Council is considering building an agri-tourism center, which would include horse and livestock shows, among other events. Some critics wonder if such a project is wise given the sluggish economy.

Ryan Morrison likes horses. He rides them in competitions. He teaches children to ride them. He even brings horse shows to Triple Creek Farm, his ranch just outside Rock Hill.

But the 28-year-old knows that not everyone shares his passion.

So as tourism experts meet with local residents this week to talk about building a York County center for everything from equestrian events to antique tractor shows, Morrison says they need to think about how such a place can pay for itself.

"You don't want your tax dollars paying for me to have fun," he said. "I don't blame you. ... If (a center) will pay its own way, then the average person doesn't mind."

Looking for input

Today and tomorrow, consultants hired by the county will be at the Agricultural Building in York to talk to people about whether the county needs what they're calling an "agri-tourism complex" -- a site that would host a variety of shows and would target agriculture-themed events.

"We would even like input on: 'What type of facility do you envision?' " said Bennish Brown, director of the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"What types of events would you recommend we try to recruit? What use do you see for the facility? We're starting at the basic level."

Tourism leaders haven't tried to figure out how much such a facility would cost, how to pay for it or where to build it.

The idea of building such a place actually has been developed over a few years, Brown said. About three years ago, local tourism officials began discussing the area's growing community of horse lovers and how to keep them -- and their dollars -- from traveling to shows outside the county.

But they know any facility must be open to other kinds of events, too.

"What we're looking at is a facility that can really still speak to our culture as a farming community, now as a horse community, and maybe can be used for some other things, too," Brown said.

Having such a center makes sense to Susan Raker, a Lake Wylie mother who often travels several hours for her 12-year-old daughter, Delaney, to compete in horse shows.

"It would stop a lot of people from traveling if it was here," she said.

Ginny Sloan also likes the idea of a local complex. She lives in the Lowrys area of Chester County, and her teenage daughters ride in high school rodeo competitions.

"The horse industry is growing by leaps and bounds," she said. "It's always going to be a draw."

York County's proximity to Charlotte could attract large regional events, Sloan said. Some horse contests draw hundreds of riders, who are willing to travel for a top-tier competition.

Although Morrison admits most people in York County could care less about horse shows, he likes the county's idea of a multi-use facility that could cater to a variety of tastes.

The greatest perk from this type of center, he said, would be its boost to the local economy.

"The biggest person to benefit is going to be your gas station man, your restaurant man, your hotel man," he said. "Instead of all the money going out every Saturday to shows all around the Southeast, all the people around the Southeast are going to be coming in."

WANT TO GO York County tourism officials want to know if local residents think a complex for horse, livestock and car shows is a good idea.

Today and tomorrow, consultants hired by the county will be at the Agricultural Building in York to talk to people about whether the county needs such a complex and, if so, where the complex should be and what features it should have.

Anyone can attend the meetings, but officials encourage those who wish to attend to call Bennish Brown, director of the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau, to set up a time. Meetings will take place in 45-minute increments. Brown’s number is 329-5200.

The meeting times are:

Monday: 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; 1:30-2:15 p.m.; and 2:30-3:15 p.m.

Tuesday: 9-9:45 a.m.; 10-10:45 a.m.; 11-11:45 a.m.; 1 p.m.-1:45 p.m.; and 2-2:45 p.m.

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