Private equine center close to construction

Saddler Arena could attract tourism dollars

WINDSOR — A new equestrian center in Northern Colorado is one step closer to being a reality.

Saddler Arena, a 151,000-square-foot indoor arena, is proposed at the northeast corner of Colorado highways 257 and 14 just north of Windsor.

Saddler Arena LLC is owned by a group of Fort Collins developers and Richard McMahan, creator of the new Internet business Horsesportsworld.com. McMahan said he noticed the demand for a private equestrian center while researching interest for the Web site.

“There is an incredible need for private arenas,” McMahan said. “Large shows can only be held at fairgrounds and stock-show pavilions. There is a lot of politics involved in these locations. Rental availability and pricing are an absolute nightmare for the industry.

“Our plan includes an indoor arena the size of a football field. We are looking at a big open space that would be totally flexible using stock panels,” McMahan said.

The space is large enough to run a rodeo event, but since most equestrian events are not spectator-friendly, the owners will use portable bleachers to seat spectators.

“The equestrian industry is not a spectator sport. This facility is built for the competitors,” Mc Mahan said.

The Saddler complex, located on 34 acres, includes outdoor riding facilities.

McMahan is anticipating holding equestrian events at Saddler each weekend and allowing riders and ropers to purchase memberships to practice during the week.

“I would love to use it like a country club or a health club for horses. Members can pay a fee and practice at night. The weather is perfect indoors,” McMahan said.

On weekends when an equestrian event isn’t held, the space can be used for dog shows or boat shows. The group applied for a special-uses permit which allows the facility to be used for six commercial events a year.

The group also owns 300 acres at the site not being used for the equestrian center. They plan to build a cross-country course and organize a trail ride on these acres.

Saddler Arena LLC purchased the land last fall and has been going through the building approval process. Construction is planned to start in the spring with completion possible by fall of 2003.

“Once we order the steel, the arena can be up in six to nine months,” McMahan said. “We will start booking events when we are closer to opening. We don’t want to schedule a large-scale event until after the first year. We want a chance to get our feet wet and figure out how things will work.”

When the center is up and running, McMahan is anticipating events like the Sun Country Circuit held in Scottsdale, Ariz. According to the official Web site for the 2003 circuit, the event will be attended by up to 50,000 people and is expected to pump $10.8 million into the local economy.

“We have been guaranteed a large event whenever we are ready. The impact on lodging, food and gasoline will be incredible,” McMahan said.

The new center will stand out among other equestrian centers with its state-of-the-art facilities.

“The sport is currently run by paper and pencil. Through www.horsesportsworld.com, the registration and events will be totally electronic,” McMahan said. “I have a friend in Boulder who is developing face-recognition software. We will use the software and have a bank of cameras that will follow a particular horse around. After practice or an event, the participant can pick up a DVD or a VHS tape of the performance.”