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OKC Voters Support Horse Shows With Landslide Victory



The December 14th landslide approval by Oklahoma City voters to increase the hotel/motel occupancy tax has ensured Oklahoma City will have the world-class facilities befitting the "Horse Show Capital of the World." The vote passed by an historic margin of 89%. Raising the current hotel/motel occupancy tax from 2% to 5.5% is estimated to generate $4.5 million annually, which will be dedicated to funding an estimated $55 million in proposed improvements to the horse show facilities at State Fair Park.

"First and foremost, I want to thank the people of Oklahoma City for supporting this issue. They are making an investment in their community that will reap great rewards for our city," said Mayor Mick Cornett, chair of the Committee to Improve OKC's Horse Show Facilities. "And, as they have done so many times before, Oklahoma City individuals and businesses also stepped up to the plate to lend their financial support and their time to the "VOTE YES" campaign. We are so fortunate to have a city full of citizens who are engaged and committed to making this a better place to live and visit. They understand the big picture of economic development."

"The city-owned horse show facilities at State Fair Park were built beginning in the 1950s. Although they have received regular maintenance and some improvements throughout the years, the funding was not available for significant updates and renovations," said Oklahoma State Fair, Inc. President and General Manager Tim O'Toole. "Competition from cities like Tulsa, Fort Worth, Dallas, Denver and Las Vegas is mounting," O'Toole explained. "One of our biggest challenges is to bring our facilities up to those standards so that we can continue the success that's been established over the last 20 years. These planned renovations - which really will result in a total remodel of the venue - will not only give us a better chance at keeping the events we already have, but will help us attract even more."

O'Toole said upgraded facilities have the potential of drawing shows from horse groups not currently coming to Oklahoma City, as well as additional competitions from organizations that are already coming here. Many of the national and international sanctioning groups that sponsor the horse shows are growing and adding additional events, including qualifying rounds and special contests for senior and youth competitors. The rising number of competitive shows provides an opportunity for Oklahoma City to increase its horse show revenue even more.

Annually, Oklahoma City's 15 major horse shows generate more than $180 million in revenue and support 3,600 jobs. State Fair Park's west side, which includes the arena and nine barns, will benefit from major renovations funded by the hotel/motel occupancy tax increase. The first step will be to tear down All Sports Stadium to expand parking. O'Toole anticipates this would happen in early 2005.

"Service parking is a key component of what we have to offer our equine customers and our livestock business," O'Toole said. "We will be able to expand that parking to accommodate even more livestock trailers."

The proposed renovations will answer the needs expressed by the groups using the facilities by providing new stalls, improved warm-up areas for competitors, and an expanded concession area, a separate sales arena, new barns and upgrades to the arena, such as new lighting, sound and seating improvements, a cattle return lane, a livestock holding area, a pedestrian walkway, a show office and a media control room.

"This has truly been a joint effort among the people in this industry to come up with a plan that will provide a funding mechanism everyone supports. It's a real partnership with the hotel/motel industry, horse show organizers, the business community and the people of Oklahoma City. That's why it works," said Mayor Cornett.

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