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Betsy Webb Stables to Become Louisville Equestrian Center

as reported by Terry Boyd, Staff Writer, Business First of Louisville

A 9-year-old horse operation is about to be transformed into a multimillion-dollar equestrian center.

After a $3.4 million facility is built on a new site, Betsy Webb Stables LLC will become the Louisville Equestrian Center, said owner Betsy Webb.

The recreational center will be a year-round saddle horse facility on about 28 acres, said Webb and Matthew Saltzman, the project’s financial adviser.

Site work for the equestrian facility has begun at 2612 S. English Station Road, a site that’s adjacent to the 21st Century Parks property along the Floyds Fork corridor.

Construction is expected to begin late this year. And Webb said she expects to move to the new facility in April.

Family-centric center
Louisville Equestrian Center will be a single-purpose riding complex with three buildings — two large indoor riding arenas and a barn with 100 climate-controlled stalls, Webb said.

The arenas will share a lounge and viewing area with closed-circuit video. It’s space where families can relax or siblings can work on homework while children take lessons, she said.

Paved paths will allow easy access "because think about who’s coming — mothers with two small kids and a stroller," she said.

Those amenities are what Webb said will differentiate the Louisville Equestrian Center from other horse operations.

More clients mean more staff
Currently, Betsy Webb Stables has 250 clients and boards about 80 horses, she said. The new facility will increase that capacity to 100 horses and 500 clients.

The staff will increase to 20 or 25 people, including instructors, from 12 full-time employees now, she said. The center is bringing in a chief operating officer and is looking for a head of marketing and sales.

Culmination of three-year effort
In the meantime, Webb’s business operates out of a rented facility at 4700 Route Road near Fisherville, she said.

She opened the business in 1999 on 22 leased acres at 11950 Ellingsworth Lane, off Blankenbaker Parkway near Interstate 64. She moved to Routt Road when that property was sold in 2005.

Creating Louisville Equestrian Center has been a long effort, said Webb and Saltzman, CEO and managing partner of Pallas Partners Inc., a Louisville-based financial consulting firm.

David Greenberg, president of Polo Fields Inc., who owned what will become the equestrian center property, brought him in as a consultant last February, Saltzman said.

Greenberg, a Pallas Partners client, had a tentative agreement to sell the land to Webb, "but they’ve been trying to get this done for a few years," Saltzman said. "David said, ‘Take a look at this thing and see if you can make it work.’ "

As The Paddock LLC, Greenberg purchased the 28.38-acre site in 2005 for $400,000, according to records with the Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator.

Louisville Equestrian Center purchased the property for $811,000, Saltzman said.

Deal closed in late October

Since then, Webb has become a Pallas Partners client. She said the arrangement combines her equestrian passion with Saltzman’s ability to refine the business plan and identify future revenue sources, giving the project the credibility to get financing.

Ultimately, the deal for $3.4 million in financing closed Oct. 24, along with the property sale by Greenberg to Webb.

The financing package includes money from private investors who are Webb clients, U.S. Small Business Administration financing, and SBA-backed loans by Farmers Bank & Capital Trust Co. of Frankfort and Lexington, Ky.-based Commonwealth Small Business Development Corp., Saltzman said.

Business with hidden potential
Key to getting the financing was identifying ways Webb could increase revenue to support the debt, Saltzman said.

"The core business is a hell of a riding program," Saltzman said.

Part of the challenge was structuring the debt to carry the business through the peaks and valleys of demand through the year.

As he worked through the details, Saltzman said, he found a sound business built on riding lessons and stabling horses, but one that was not maximizing potential revenue.

Foremost, Webb has a riding academy, with an average of 250 lessons per week at $30 each, and "a very healthy camp business," with summer camps selling out at $350 per week per child, Saltzman said.

He identified eight business lines to branch off from the core business. One is consignment sales of pricey gear and equipment.

Another potential source of revenue is marketing, according to Saltzman. "I said, ‘What’s a barn? It’s a billboard.’ "

He is seeking sponsors who want to get their message to middle-class to wealthy horse owners.

And Webb also might broker horse deals as a revenue source. Saltzman called the effort a "natural, complementary service."

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