2018 World Equestrian Games: could Lexington host instead?

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Days after the Fédération Équestre Internationale Fédération Équestre Internationale announced Bromont, Quebec would no longer host the 2018 World Equestrian Games, some are pushing for Kentucky to make a run.

No one will officially say whether or not Kentucky is interested in trying to get the 2018 Games, but former Lexington mayor Jim Newberry said he would love to see it happen.

"It was one of the greatest things that's ever happened to Lexington," Newberry said of the 2010 World Equestrian Games. He was mayor at the time.

Kentucky was a finalist to host the 2018 Games. In 2014, FEI awarded the Games to Bromont, Quebec.

"Once I heard that it was going to Canada, I realized that it probably wouldn't be back in Lexington until sometime in the middle part of the next decade, at best," Newberry said.

On Friday, FEI announced the organizing committee of the 2018 Games in Quebec would not host because of financial difficulties. Newberry sees that as an opportunity for Kentucky.

"If we had the opportunity to do it again, with the benefit of experience, with the benefit of a better economic environment, it can be one of the best things that's ever happened to Lexington," Newberry said.

No one knows exactly what will happen. The FEI president said "We are now looking at possible alternatives for 2018 and we are hopeful that we will be in a position to make an announcement shortly,". When asked about the possibility of Kentucky hosting in 2018, a spokesperson emailed, "We have not been advised by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) that Kentucky is interested in hosting the Games in 2018,". A USEF spokesperson said they had no comment. Alltech was a headline sponsor back in 2010. Today, a spokesperson said said they were watching the developments and said the 2010 event was an economic boon, but stopped short of saying they'd jump on the chance to sponsor it if it came back. A spokesperson for the state tourism cabinet did not return a call.

According to an economic impact report published by the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, & Heritage Cabinet, the 2010 Games contributed $201.5 million to Kentucky's economy including ticket sales, lodging, food, and transportation. It also says Kentucky took in $23 million in tax revenue as a result of spending by visitors at the Games.

Newberry said Lexington should be in good shape to host again, if that's what state, equine, and FEI leaders decide to do.

"It ought to be a lot easier this time around," he said.

A 2011 Lexington Herald-Leader article said $107 million in state, local, and federal money went to improvements at the Kentucky Horse Park. The indoor arena and outdoor stadium built for the Games are still there. The article also said another $151 million went toward building projects. The city made a lot of improvements.

"We made a number of improvements to Newtown Pike. We made a number of improvements to the Ironworks Pike-Interstate 75 interchange. We made a whole host of improvements downtown - the Fifth Third Pavilion, the downtown streetscapes, the Newtown Pike extension - all of those things that were done in 2010 are pieces of infrastructure that can readily support the 2018 games if they decide to come here," Newberry said.

If state and equine leaders decide they want to host the games in 2018, Newberry says now is the time to move on it.

"We can only do it if we pull together. That means that state government's got to be intimately involved and fully engaged in the whole effort. It means local government's got to be fully engaged. It means the folks at the Horse Park have got to really want to do this because time is short and if we're going to make it work, we've got to start immediately and have all hands on deck," Newberry said.

source: foxlexington