Baraboo officials hear plans for unique horse arena project - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Baraboo officials hear plans for unique horse arena project

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BARABOO (WKOW) -- The city of Baraboo is considering a unique development plan that is expected to bring a new kind of tourist to town: horse lovers.

Developer Bob LaDow with First Class Management presented his initial proposal for a horse arena and event center to the city's Plan Commission Tuesday night.

LaDow says his project is unlike any existing facility in the area and is a much-need resource for the equine community.

The development would be built on a 120 acre plot of city-owned farmland on the far east side of Baraboo, just past the Sauk County Fairgrounds on Highway 33.

It includes two indoor, heated and air-conditioned arenas that can be used year-round, three outdoor arenas, retail space, a banquet hall, a campground and multi-use trails. LaDow tells 27 News the Baraboo land is the perfect spot for the project.

"It's just great, it's got some hills in it, it's got some woods in it, we're going to put some trails in," LaDow says. "After doing some more research, we found out how big the need is for a arena that is a decent size but at a cheaper rate than what is out there."

LaDow worked with a team of equine advisors to assess different locations and work on what is needed at the site. They say many groups that show horses have had to cancel shows because they can't afford to book the larger venues.

"It's large for the area, but it's smaller than the Dane County Coliseum area, so it's more accessible for smaller groups like 4H & FFA, state level breed associations," says Katy Mara, a horse riding instructor.
 
LaDow says the development will boost tourism in the area and bring 20 to 30 full time jobs along with it, up to 40 seasonally. Groups are expected to come to Baraboo from all over the state and the nation.
 
Baraboo Mayor Mike Palm says it's a large project for the area but could be a positive step for the community.
 
"When we think of tourism in Baraboo, we think of natural activities and being outdoors and I think this fits right into that," Palm tells 27 News. "I would anticipate that moving forward we're going to learn a lot more, but at this point in time [funding] is a big question mark."
 
LaDow tells 27 News the first phase of the project could cost at least $24 million. He doesn't have an idea yet on how much he might ask the city to contribute and is still working to secure financial investors. 
 
Some of the members of the plan commission questioned funding options at the meeting, but developers explained they still have to talk about all the options financially and it's early in the process.
 
City officials say they purchased the property in the early 2000's from a farmer for $1.2 million. That discussion led to establishing a boundary agreement with the town of Greenfield. The property was previously a part of that jurisdiction. First Class Management plans to purchase the land from the city.
 
The Plan Commission expects many more discussions and meetings before making any decisions on the feasibility of the project.

Developers had initially considered property in the city of Portage, but have since abandoned that option because they believe the site in Baraboo is more favorable.

27 News reached out to Portage city officials and they say they haven't had any communication with First Class Management since October, when a planned meeting was canceled by developers.

Administrator Shawn Murphy says the city was supportive of the concept and they're disappointed with how it played out.

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