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Coalition Formed To Attract Pan Am Events

Published: October 21, 2008 12:48 pm ET

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Ontario politicians have formed a rural-urban coalition to help secure the high-profile equestrian component of the 2015 Pan/Para Pan American Games. Organizers say the Games could generate $15 billion worth of economic activity overall for their host.

Ontario is considered a front-runner for the Games, among a field likely to include Bogota, Columbia and Lima, Peru. Ontario will formally submit a bid to the organizing committee early in 2009. Bid chair David Peterson and his venue selection committee are eyeing potential locales now for the Games' multi-sport competitions, including equestrian sports events.

Area officials, including MPP Liz Sandals, MPP Ted Arnott and Guelph mayor Karen Farbridge, want the equestrian venue to come to the proposed Ontario Equine Centre (OEC), near Arkell. Centre planners say it's the only site in Ontario that could accommodate all three currently sanctioned equestrian events (and others that might get approval between now and 2015), as well as hold equine demonstration sports events.

The OEC is an Ontario-incorporated, not-for profit entity established to fulfill the equine industry's vision of establishing a world-class equine facility at Arkell. The centre includes seven partners, representing all equine breeds and disciplines, provincial and national.

Plans for the OEC have been evolving for the past two years, with the equine industry and the University of Guelph working together to develop an equine sector business cluster and research incubator. Pending government and regulatory approvals, construction could start next year.

Organizers say the OEC's relationship with the university gives it research, education and technology transfer aspects that are unique among horse parks in North America.

"The OEC is set within the densest horse population in all of Canada and will serve as a focal point for all disciplines of the equine sector," says Jean Szkotnicki, OEC president. "It will put the Ontario and Canadian equine industry in a leadership position globally while contributing to regional economic and environmental sustainability."

The proposed site for the OEC is the 600-acre Arkell Research Station farm in Puslinch Township, just off Victoria Road and Arkell Road at the southern boundary of Guelph. It could handily accommodate the Games and provide the infrastructure to make them a success, say organizers. Revenues in excess of costs will be reinvested in the enterprise to continually benefit the equine industry and the province.

"Hosting the equestrian portion of the Games would be a terrific boost to the community and tourism," says Arnott. "The proximity of the Games to the University of Guelph with its research and teaching strengths, and the support of the equine industry, means we have the expertise, talent and resources to succeed."

Adds Farbridge: "The synergy for this proposal is great between private, public, academic and non-profit interests. It's an extremely exciting opportunity for Guelph, the county and the surrounding area."

Other local officials who comprise the coalition include Puslinch mayor Brad Whitcombe and Wellington County warden John Green. Their municipalities have taken root as equine strongholds over the past decade, leading Ontario's 40 per cent growth in horses and giving the province the largest horse population in Canada. It's estimated more than $980 million has been spent in Ontario on equine-related assets (horses, land, buildings, vehicles, etc.) in the past four years alone.

Arnott likes the legacy aspect of the Games. In Puslinch, they would have a lasting impact on the entire industry and stimulate further investment in the industry. Organizers say the Ontario Equine Centre would be a premier destination site for equine interests globally – its proposed location is easily accessible, and its flat-to-gently-rolling topography is ideal. All this adds up to the OEC having a projected $70 million annual economic impact for the region.

"The Games would serve the region for many years to come," says Arnott. "They will truly leave a lasting legacy."

(Equine Guelph)

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