Feasibility study for Horse Park underway
Does the concept of an international horse park in Aiken County have merit? And, if so, what would such a park look like and where would the funding come from? These questions and more will be answered this year when a comprehensive feasibility study is completed.
The study, commissioned through the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce, is being conducted by Dr. Simon Hudson, Director of the Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development from the USC College of Hospitality, Retail, and Sports Management. The study is slated for completion this summer.
According to Dr. Hudson, the objective of the research project is to conduct a comprehensive study to determine the feasibility of developing a multi-use international horse park in Aiken, South Carolina. "My team and I will objectively and rationally look at many aspects that will ultimately support the final recommendation," Dr. Hudson said.
"The general consensus within the industry is that a horse park on its own is not feasible, however, a multi-use park could conceivably have solid potential, and this is where we will be focusing our research efforts," he said.
"We will be talking with numerous entities, including those with equestrian interests, community leaders, local citizens, and those who frequent equestrian events. We'll also be visiting other equestrian centers currently in operation to study the pros and cons of each," said Dr. Hudson, who held focus groups in Aiken in late February.
Ed Scanlon, manager of Equine Development for the Chamber, was instrumental in securing the services of Dr. Hudson and his team, as well as the funding provided by a private donor for the study. "This study will tell us whether or not a multi-use international horse park is a viable and lucrative option. If it turns out that it is, then the study will also provide potential investors with clear planning objectives and strategies," Scanlon said.
The feasibility study is the next step following the development of a white paper, "A Vision for an International Horse Park in Aiken County," which was produced by the Aiken Chamber of Commerce and approved by the Board of Directors last year.
"This study is a natural progression in our efforts to preserve and grow the area's equine industry," said Chamber President J. David Jameson. "We have spent several years getting to this point, starting with a task force in 2007 that explored business growth opportunities of the equine industry. That was followed by an economic impact study of Aiken County's equine industry in 2008, and the hiring of Ed Scanlon as manager of Equine Development in 2010," Jameson said.
Chamber Chair Arthur W. (Buzz) Rich, Esquire, said, "I know many people in the community have been following this equine initiative for some time. The feasibility study is a very important step because it will determine the future direction of a potential horse park here. We look forward to hearing the results later this year."
The possibility of an international horse park rose to the forefront in 2009 when South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT) released the results of a multi-year study. The study was done to help SCPRT develop a long range tourism action plan for the state. The comprehensive study targeted Aiken as the heart of the Scenic Savannah River Region and as the potential site for an international horse park.