The executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park is anticipating one of the “best years ever” for the sprawling tourist attraction, despite significant financial hurdles. This week the park returned to its regular operating hours for the spring and summer. Ryan Yates and his family were visiting Friday from Collierville, Tennessee. “It’s neat to see the different breeds that we don’t typically see in our part of the country.”
Tourists like the Yates family and more than 80 scheduled events and competitions have horse park executive director John Nicholson anticipating a big year. But the park needs a boost from the Kentucky General Assembly: $3.5 million this fiscal year.
“The current financial situation that we’re dealing with in the General Assembly is not related to how we are doing now," says Nicholson. "It’s related to what happened in ’07, ’08, and ’09 when the great recession hit us --and hit us hard-- at the same time that we were expanding vigorously and had a great deal of construction here at the park.”
The Kentucky House approved a spending plan that would help the horse park eliminate its budget deficit but would not increase funding for the next two fiscal years. The proposal is now being considered by the Senate.
“We’re asking for this investment and this is an investment that will have an immediate and significant return for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”
Nicholson says the horse park-- and state tax revenues-- will benefit from the dozens of competitions and events scheduled at the park this year. The park must also develop a business plan to show lawmakers how it intends to achieve self-sustainability.