Pony Up for a Horse Park

$12 million for horsies? Well, if you insist.

Last week I attended a Dallas City Council briefing in which I heard a top staff member tell council members the city needs to spend $12 million in tax money on a "horse park" because it "fills the public purpose that voters have twice said they want."

I'm a voter. I'm trying to think. Gosh. Did I say I wanted a horse park? Twice? Oh, man. Wait! What is a horse park?

I went back and looked. When they say we have twice said we want a horse park, they mean that money for a horse park was included in city bond proposals passed by city voters in 1998 and in 2006. If you voted in those elections, you never saw the words "horse park" anywhere on the ballot. In fact you had to be sort of a legal scholar of bond proposals to even find mention of a horse park buried deep in supporting documentation.

Jared Boggess


Email the author at jim.schutze@dallasobserver.com.

But technically we did vote for money for a horse park in 1998 when we approved the Trinity River project. It was going to cost us three million bucks. That was the mortgage amount. With interest the horse park would have wound up costing us $4.2 million, straight out of the property tax.

In 2006 we voted again for money for a horse park, only this time it was for an additional $12 million. That one would have been $17 million with the interest, plus the $4.2 million from 1998, for a total of about $21.2 million.

Once again, you would have needed your magnifying glass and your funny double-billed Sherlock Holmes cap to find mention of the thing in the documentation for the bond proposal. And again: What is a horse park?

Oh, a very fancy affair, indeed, according to the briefings given to the council that year. It was all about building a big horse arena and attracting rich people from all over the world to come wear black beanies and jump their horses over walls like Ann Romney.

Did we vote for that? Really? Yeah, sorry. We're down for it. If you look at some of the stuff the staff was telling the City Council back in 2006, you can sort of see why the council might have gone for it.

First of all, the rich horsey people were going to kick in $15 million of their own money. That would have made the thing about a $30 million facility hosting 60 fantabulous horsey events a year.

The staff told the council that the Dallas horse park would initially bring in about $22.4 million a year to the Dallas economy, then more later. And, you know the great thing about the city staff, they only tell the council the truth, which is why our honorable council trusts them so.

The city told the council the horse park would bring $305 million to the city's economy in 10 years and create 334 permanent jobs. The great thing was, they were going to have that sucker up and running in only two years, with an opening date of October 2008, so the council could count on all that money rolling into the area pretty fast, as soon as the horsey people showed up in their tuxedo beanies and started jumping.

I grew up in Detroit. I thought to produce wealth you had to manufacture things. What a dope.

Let's see, with a 2008 start-up, the horse park should have been running for about four years by now. So if all that big money started rolling into Dallas at the initial rate of $22.4 million a year, then I guess we've already made about $90 million off it.

But, no. Sadly. Not at all. Now it looks like the correct number is actually ... can you guess? ... ZERO!!! There is no horse park. No beanies. No nothing.

The rich people did not raise $15 million. They said they raised $1 million. I never saw the cash, but anyway that was not at all the deal, was it? If the lady at Ace Hardware says your box of deck screws costs $15, you can't hand her $1, can you? You certainly can't give an IOU for one dollar. So nothing got done. Nothing. No horse park. No Ann Romney. No beanies.

Now the city staff is telling the City Council that it still has $12 million in its hot little fist. It's unclear where the other three million went. I'm afraid if we ask, we'll look like poor people. Forget it. It's just tax money.

The staff still has a legal authorization from us to borrow and spend $12 million, and that money is burning a hole in their little pockets, so they are proposing that the city do the following: Just give it away.

Give away $12 million in capital improvements to a group of nonprofits. Give them 30-year leases on several hundred acres of city land. The nonprofits will invest nothing. They will pay nothing. They will raise no revenue for the city. They will have no economic impact. But they will help children in need. And let me ask you something: Are you against children in need? I thought not.

No more talk of rich horsey people. Not a mention of $22.4 million in annual economic impact. Just build something, give it to these nice people, that's it. Spend the money and walk.

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My Voice Nation Help

Again the city shows that it just can not spend the tax payer's money without squandering it.  After all there is so much more where that came from.  What a bunch of crap from the city council and staff.


Spread across a topographic high at the site is a real cool escarpment used by Native Americans. Here they fashioned all kinds of tools, hunted and camped. It's all still there. An archeological survey was done there just recently and found evidence of much more. There is a much deeper story to all this regarding poor land stewardship of city hall, a very poorly maintained black market slaughterhouse and I'm afraid to say a city government that failed to protect citizens of Pleasant Grove from a health hazard. The city should really be ashamed of itself that they allowed this to happen for so long. They knew about it. It infuriates me. It put the health of those around there at risk. It polluted the watershed. They blame the tenant but I think the city needs to share in that blame. Shame on them. The whole lot.


I like the idea of a Horse Park but really dislike the plans. The original plans were near the intersection of Elam and Pemberton Hill Road. The new design is at 811 Pemberton Hill, the old Wallace Jenkins mega-farm that once dominated both sides of the river. This location sits too close to a very sensitive archeological wonder of a place. The current renderings would have a negative impact there that would be permanent. To build a parking lot in the same pasture as the old White Rock Spring is irresponsible and down right criminal. The runoff from the parking area would end up in the spring. With so much available land to chose from why here? It just mystifies me.


TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

I think Sherman T. Potter would've said, "Horse hockey!"