The frontage road to the property where the new equestrian facility is to be build dead-ends just after ESMS * Photo By Amy Olson

NCHA Declines Ownership in Weatherford Equestrian Facility, Looks at moving Triple Crown

Preparations are underway on a piece of land in Weatherford, Texas, officials say may one day host National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Triple Crown events.

The NCHA has been in discussions about moving the three major events it produces — the NCHA Futurity, Super Stakes and Summer Cutting Spectacular — from their longtime home in Fort Worth, Texas. One of the possible new locations for the Triple Crown is an as-of-yet unbuilt facility proposed in Weatherford, Texas.

Though initial discussions included the possibility of NCHA building or owning a facility in Weatherford, the membership made it clear during discussions held last month at the NCHA Convention that many of them were not ready to support the building or ownership of the proposed facility in Weatherford.

When asked after convention if NCHA would participate in owning, promoting, maintaining or managing the Weatherford equestrian facility in Weatherford, NCHA Executive Director Jay Winborn said, “No.”

“Members just did not have the appetite to really go down that road of building something for ourselves,” Winborn said.

The current concerns with Will Rogers include cleanliness and scheduling restrictions, as well as the rising cost of hosting events and rising costs of parking at Will Rogers. Quarter Horse News (QHN) left phone messages for Parker seeking additional details, but she did not respond.

“The association is paying close to $2 million a year to rent that facility,” said Jay.

The Triple Crown of cutting consists of the Futurity each November and December, the Super Stakes, and the Summer Spectacular. Currently, the events are held in Fort Worth, Texas, at the Will Rogers Memorial Center. On June 28, the Will Rogers Memorial Center has announced an $8.5 Million renovation of the Coliseum concourse and restrooms to occur in 2024 and 2025.

In an effort to evaluate opportunities elsewhere for the NCHA Triple Crown, Winborn has been looking into the proposed facility in Weatherford, as well as other facilities across the nation.

Proposed map and ‘feel’ of the Weatherford Equestrian Facility * Photo from NCHA Convention Slideshow

“With the scope of our Triple Crown events and the size of it, there are a lot of limitations at other venues,” he pointed out. “Cattle handling and availability of cattle are key factors that weigh into what we do.”

Finding a facility that meets those requirements is not easy.

“If someone was to build a facility that has the scope and size to not only accommodate us, but some of the other associations, it would be very successful, especially in the center of the country,” Winborn continued.

Weatherford’s Future Equestrian Facility

Since 2022, the original plan for the Weatherford Equestrian Facility has greatly changed. The City of Weatherford has purchased a property just past Teskeys and Equine Sports Medicine & Surgery (ESMS) on the Interstate 20 Frontage Road on the western side of Weatherford. In its’ entirety it consists of 240 acres. 

“To date we’ve spent over $10 Million on water and wastewater infrastructure improvements,” Weatherford City Manager James Hotopp stated in the June 13 NCHA video.

“We’ve finished up the last stages of wastewater, then we’ll work on the surface transportation or access roads,” Hotopp stated in an interview on June 28.

The access road leading to the lot stops at a dead end and will need extended. In the June 13 video Hotopp said “We’ve hired a lobbyist to help with federal highway funding for the extension of the frontage road.”

The future site of the Weatherford Equestrian Facility * Photo by Amy Olson

Weatherford hopes to have the project completed in four years but Hotopp wouldn’t yet release any official information as to the proposed shopping, dining and hotel amenities on site.

The City of Weatherford did accept input on facility design from NCHA. The equestrian center is planned to have three conjoining performance arenas, as well as attached stalls and practice pens. It will also boast cattle holding pens as well as an RV park for visitors to camp in their trailers on 110 acres of land.

One of the concerns raised by NCHA members during this year’s convention was a fear that another association could gain ownership of the proposed facility. 

“The facility would be big enough to accommodate a lot of different associations, but our discussions so far have just been with NCHA,” Hotopp told Quarter Horse News.

Triple Crown Move

The main discussion for NCHA moving forward is where to host the Triple Crown events. Each year the NCHA spends upwards of 110 days in the City of Fort Worth during Triple Crown events.

“It’s reasonable to determine and has been fairly consistent over the past couple of years that the Triple Crown of cutting alone on the Fort Worth economy and the state of Texas generates approximately $60 Million in direct spend,” Angie Highland, President of Highland Market Research said in the NCHA Video released on June 13.

NCHA Triple Crown entries, as well as the entire sport, have seen major growth in the past few years. As a result, competitors, horses and employees put in close to 12-hour days during those events.

“I have no dates to expand my schedule,” Winborn said. “That’s not good for anybody. It’s not good for the horses, it’s not good for competitors, and it’s not good for local merchants that benefit from our people getting out in the community for dining and shopping.”

“We’re either going to have to cap entries or substantially raise entry fees to cover the expenses, or something is going to have to happen at Will Rogers to bring down costs and give me more days to open up that schedule,” Jay said.

NCHA Executive Director Jay Winborn * Photo from NCHA

Owners can enter an unlimited number of horses at the NCHA Futurity. NCHA Futurity rules online state that “Riders may ride a maximum of 2 horses of any sex in each Futurity Division.”

If an NCHA Triple Crown event was moved out of the state of Texas, the NCHA would lose significant funding from the state’s Major Events Reimbursement Program (MERP) program. Those monies would still be potentially available if the Triple Crown moved to Weatherford.

“I want people to understand that my position is for the future of this organization and to make sure that we thrive and are prosperous and are able to produce events in a quality venue and a quality manner. That is what’s motivating this discussion,” Winborn said.

Although changes may be years away, questions posed at the 2023 NCHA Convention are being evaluated.  The potential cost of renting the Weatherford facility might be more attractive than costs at Will Rogers. Allowing for better scheduling or more show arenas would also allow the NCHA to host a more efficient event. If the Will Rogers Memorial Center could provide better scheduling and affordable rates, that would be the place to stay.

“The arena may change but what we do in it, our sport, never will,” said Jay Winborn.