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Board approves study for Maryland horse park

The Maryland Horse Industry Board voted unanimously Tuesday to move forward on the first phase of a viability study for a state horse park.

The board approved $8,000 to pay for the study to be conducted through the Maryland Stadium Authority. The study would update a 2006 study of the market, site and an economic analysis of the concept.

The second phase of the study, not yet approved by the board, would cost $70,000 and is expected to be paid for by the board, the Department of Business and Economic Development, the Department of Natural Resources, and possibly other sources, said MHIB Chairman James B. Steele.

“We just want to move forward and get going on this,” said MHIB Executive Director Ross Peddicord.

Officials from the MHIB, DBED and the stadium authority have been working on a request for information and a viability study for a 500-acre state horse park. The land would be used for competitive riding events, steeplechase, show ring sports, dressage, polo matches and other activities to attract visitors and boost horse industry tourism.

This is the second time state officials have sought a horse park. Anne Arundel County’s U.S. Naval Academy Dairy Farm was chosen by the state from among six possible locations. But after strong local opposition, the proposal was dropped in 2007.

No new location has been selected yet for a horse park.

The next step will be to inform the Maryland Stadium Authority of the board’s decision and send payment, Peddicord said.

The first phase of the study will include a memorandum commenting on whether the proposed horse park still appears viable. The phase will include research and analysis conducted for the 2006 study.

The first phase will also incorporate research of horse industry trends, the state’s tourism industry and economic conditions as well as comparisons of horse parks in other states.

The 2006 feasibility study estimated that a horse park would bring $9.3 million annually to local and state governments. Hotel taxes would generate $1.7 million of that, while sales taxes would provide $5 million for the state.

The idea for a horse park in Maryland was inspired by the 1,200-acre Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky., which draws nearly 1 million visitors annually to its horse shows, museum and campground. Board members and state officials visited Kentucky’s park last year.

Since then, government officials, including Department of Agriculture Secretary Earl F. “Buddy” Hance and Gov. Martin O’Malley, have expressed interest in seeing a horse park in Maryland.

MSA will use Crossroads Consulting Services LLC, based in Tampa, Fla., as its consultant on the project.

After the entire viability study is completed, MHIB board members and government officials will determine how the park would be paid for.