Big dreams for Sonoma County equestrian center

  • Wanda Smith, director of California Equestrian Park and Event Center, stands near the area off Roblar Road, where CEPEC have proposed a equestrian park including stables, polo fields, dressage arena, a track for training, arenas for both western and English riding, plus other facilities.

Horse enthusiasts with big dreams are moving forward with their idea to build a $200 million everything-under-the-sun equestrian event center on ranch land in southern Sonoma County.

The sprawling project, on 250 acres of rolling pasture on a 1,200-acre spread west of Cotati, would be a world-class venue intended to attract national and international competitions, supporters say.

The grandness of the vision is matched by the hurdles that must be overcome, not the least of which are financial, environmental and governmental. Yet the promoters seem undeterred.

CEPEC Fundraiser


It would be an economic engine for the area and would restore Sonoma County to what they say is its rightful place at the center of the horse world. Twice in the past two centuries the county has held that honor, they said, but access to local venues and support for equestrian sports has withered in recent decades.

"Everything &‘horse' starts here," said Karl Bastian, a leading promoter and past president of the Sonoma County Horse Council. Studies have shown that the horse industry, including boarding, training and other business, has been one of the county's top farm sectors, he said. "It's going to happen again."

Versions of the idea have been passed around in horse circles for years. The latest package has drawn interest from a group of ranching families whose properties occupy much of the land between Meacham and Roblar roads north of the county's central landfill.

The list of facilities envisioned for that land is lofty.

Up to 17 outdoor show arenas, polo fields, an exercise track, museum, restaurants, shops, a conference and equine surgical center and campgrounds would occupy the developed area. It would be anchored by a "coliseum," a covered stadium of still undetermined size.

The campus would support up to 80 full-time jobs and generate between $65 million and $250 million annually in business and taxes for the county, supporters said. They based those numbers on figures associated with other equestrian centers such as the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, which is about the same size.

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