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Council considers lease for large equestrian facility
Planned 80-acre site would be the largest in central Arizona

(From left) Chino Valley Equestrian Association Vice President Gary Gang and Sergio Martinez show off the plan for an 80-acre equestrian center in Chino Valley. (Ken Sain/Review)

(From left) Chino Valley Equestrian Association Vice President Gary Gang and Sergio Martinez show off the plan for an 80-acre equestrian center in Chino Valley. (Ken Sain/Review)

Sergio Martinez, the director of design services at Scottsdale-based Agate, Inc., has built major equestrian centers around the world and is one of the foremost designers of such facilities in the United States.

He wants his next project to be in Chino Valley, and he's providing his expertise for free.

The Chino Valley Equestrian Association was scheduled to make a presentation to the Town Council on Tuesday, March 8, taking the first steps toward building an 80-acre equine center at Old Home Manor that could make Chino Valley the equestrian capital of northern Arizona.

"It's been going, on and off, with people talking about wanting to do something for 17, 18 years," said Gary Gang, the vice-president of the CVEA. "Susie, I'll give her credit, she's the one that got this ball rolling. She saw the need, and it started out as one little thing and now we've got some really smart people involved who can see the potential of where it can go in the future."

Susie is the CVEA president, Susan Cuka, who also is a member of the Town Council. She said she will recuse herself from any votes on a potential equestrian center. The association is asking the town to lease them 80 acres at Old Home Manor for the facility. On Tuesday, according to the agenda of the meeting, they were asking council to tell staff to begin working out details for a possible equestrian center.

"I reached out to the community - the equestrian community - and it just kind of exploded, the people who wanted something to do in the area," Cuka said. "It fills a niche for the down south people (Phoenix and Tucson areas) as well, because we're the offseason from their season (October through April). We can provide a niche from April through October."

Cuka said she originally looked at the existing equestrian facility at Old Home Manor, but soon realized it was too small to handle all the interest she was hearing about from horse owners in Chino Valley. The location they are proposing is on the other side of the street of the current facility to the south, but north of the ball fields on Perkinsville Road.

Martinez, who has built about 300 equestrian facilities around the world in his 40-year career, has drawn up a detailed plan for the 80 acres that includes three arenas and room for future expansion. Some of his facilities include Westworld, Horseshoe Park in Queen Creek, and Rawhide in Chandler.

"When I started interviewing the folks up here, and the different types of equestrian events that they do dressage to hunter jump to roping to barrels, and then I started doing a feasibility study as to how much use a facility of any kind would get in Chino Valley, as a regional facility and as a state facility," Martinez said. "And after the studies I determined that we needed a bunch of facilities."

Martinez said that during the summer months, he expects a facility of this size would have multiple events taking place every weekend, and that it could bring about 600 visitors on average a week to town.

Cuka said Martinez does have a vested interest in this project and that's why he's donating his time and expertise. He owns a house in Williamson Valley and has daughters who love to ride horses and are looking for a venue in the area to compete at.

Each of the people interviewed said that the events would not be limited to horses, but that a facility such as what they are proposing could be home to car shows, boat shows, dog shows, and outdoor concerts.

The Chino Valley Equestrian Association plans to raise the money to build the facility (Martinez estimates it will cost $5.6 million) through grants and donations, Cuka said. They are asking the town for a favorable lease of the 80 acres. The Town of Chino Valley owns most of the property at Old Home Manor north of Perkinsville Road in the eastern half of town.

The town has set that land aside for a future industrial park that it hopes brings in jobs to the community. Currently, most of the land is vacant. The association hasn't started its fundraising efforts yet, said Treasurer Danielle Feller.

"We've been trying to keep it quiet until we know that we're good with the town..., but the people we have talked to have been very, overwhelmingly enthusiastic about it," Feller said. "I'm hoping that will spread, and that will make the money come."

Follow Ken Sain on Twitter at @ksainjr. Reach him at 928-445-3333, Ext. 2021, or 928-420-5341 or email him at ksain@prescottaz.com.

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