Hoping to make the Kentucky Horse Park into a major convention center, officials are asking Lexington city leaders for help. Two years ago this week, Lexington was playing host to the World Equestrian Games. Horse Park Director John Nicholson says the international event pumped more than 200 million dollars into the region’s economy. The longtime director says high gasoline prices, 85-million dollars in improvements and the state’s fiscal crisis then put a financial strain on the horse park. Now, Nicholson says state officials want the park to become self sufficient. Still, he told council members he’s not looking for a handout.
“I want to make sure everybody understands that I’m not even whispering or implying that I will be here asking for money in the urban county council budget for the horse park. That’s not at all, an intention at all,” said Nicholson.
Nicholson says the park is still very interested in hosting a high-end hotel, which could bring in revenue. He says it can move forward once a current court case involving a previous hotel project is resolved.
Nicholson likened the horse park to a second convention center where thousands of visitors come for events. He talked about how a portion of Lexington’s hotel-motel tax currently supports the downtown convention center. Nicholson says he would like to explore similar financial support for the horse park.
“We need to explore not specifically that necessarily, but other forms and the way other cities support their convention centers because frankly Lexington is very blessed to have, not one convention center, but two,” added Nicholson.
Council member Jay McChord echoed the sentiment, praising the horse park as the host of this year’s state wrestling tournament.
“By having it in a venue where you could drop down more than four mats at a time, you shaved an entire day of a three day tournament which cost schools travel time and real money, so it became a real important asset in play that really helped the entire state,” said McChord.
McChord says the ‘legacy trail’ bike and pedestrian path also ties into Horse Park activities. The trail runs from downtown Lexington out to the park off Newtown Pike.