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Ebony Horsewomen Seek Site In Other Town For An Equestrian Center

STEVEN GOODE

September 29, 2009

HARTFORD - A few months after their proposal to build an equestrian center in Keney Park was denied by the city council, the Ebony Horsewomen have turned their sights to nearby towns, including property at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.

The Hartford-based nonprofit group invited 29 towns in the capital region to submit possible locations for the group's ambitious Connecticut Equestrian and Exhibition Center project, which envisions a year-round, multiuse facility that would include outdoor arenas, barns, polo fields, a practice track, museum, restaurants and a 6,000-seat arena.

Pat Kelly, founder of the Ebony Horsewomen, said the group received 13 nominations from four towns and chose sites in East Hartford, East Granby and Vernon for further evaluation. The group runs programs that teach city youngsters to ride and care for horses.

The proposal still lacks financial backing for a project the group expects to cost between $40 million and $60 million.

Kelly said Monday that the organization was still considering the three proposals from the finalist towns and that meetings are planned to discuss them in October. Once a site is chosen, Kelly said, the group will negotiate with a private co-developer who would be expected to help make financial arrangements. If all works out, the equestrian center would be completed by the summer of 2012.

"We have identified interested parties," Kelly said, referring to a co-developer. "No one will sign on until you have a location."

Jeanne Webb, economic development director for East Hartford, said the Rentschler Field complex offers 60 to 70 acres of parking at the UConn football stadium and access to more than 120 acres for trail-riding.

Webb said the town has not gotten into specifics with Kelly's organization yet, but feels the project could boost economic activity and tourism in East Hartford.

"There would have to be a next step in the feasibility study, but we also have the most horses per capita in the country," Webb said, referring to Connecticut.

In Vernon, Mayor Jason McCoy said the town identified several privately owned parcels that would meet the horsewomen's 25-acre requirement.

McCoy declined to be specific about the location of the properties but said that they would offer easy access to the highway.

East Granby First Selectman James M. Hayden also declined to be specific about the location of its site other than to say that it is privately owned and meets the acreage requirements.

"Based on the plans it could be pretty exciting for the equestrian community and it would be in keeping with the rural character of the town," Hayden said.

Kelley said the equestrian center would not affect the youth equestrian programs the organization has operated at Keney Park.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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