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RV site expansion sought next to Idaho Center: a ‘great need’

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Events at Nampa’s Idaho Horse Park have grown so popular it’s difficult to accommodate everyone who wants to stay there for events.

The Nampa City Council heard presentations about the issue during a special council meeting on Thursday morning. Presenters encouraged the city to fund expanded RV capacity at the park, which is located adjacent to the Idaho Center at 16200 N. Idaho Center Blvd.

“Without this investment, the horse park will become less competitive and unable to attract upper level, high number shows,” said Sherri Boardman, vice president of the Idaho Horse Park Foundation. “This will lead to a decrease in the operations budget and potentially a greater impact on the taxpayer. The Idaho Horse Park brings millions of tourism dollars annually to this community and it is a city asset that is worthy of investment,” she said, asking that the city make funding the project a “priority budget item.”

Growing demand

The Idaho Center and Idaho Horse Park complex in Namp in a March, 2020 photo. Photo: Brian Myrick/Idaho Press

The park currently has about 40 RV sites available as permanent hookups, and another 40 available as dry campsites with temporary power hookups, according to the agenda packet for the meeting. During the park’s events, such as the Snake River Stampede and the regional championship of the National Reining Horse Association, event participants often want to RV camp onsite.

But demand for RV sites has outstripped availability, people said at the meeting. Accommodating visitors at temporary RV sites requires the park to bring in amenities such as generators and waste removal services, which cost the park more money than if it were accommodating visitors in dedicated RV sites, according to the agenda packet.

The park would need to offer at least 100 RV sites to meet demand, and the city has the land for it, the report says.

The venue hosts 26 events per year, many of which draw visitors from across the United States and Canada for multiple days. Proponents of the park expansion argue that the tourism dollars brought by events there make it a worthwhile investment for the city.

Paula Cook, a member of the Idaho Horse Park Foundation who also shows horses at events there, used a formula developed by the city of Forth Worth, Texas and the American Quarter Horse Association to calculate the economic impact of the Idaho Horse Park on Nampa’s economy. The formula assumes that for every horse that attends an event, about three people attend for that horse, whether it is their owners and family or spectators, Cook said. It also estimates that $150 is spent per person per day at an event, and that the average visit is three days, which includes a day for checking in and checking out.

The formula also assumes that each dollar spent for an event is spent one more time in the community, which is a conservative estimate, Cook said. Even so, it amounts to lots of local spending, Cook said.

“The average impact was just under $15 million spent in our local community, extrapolated to almost $30 million,” Cook said. “I hope that conveys to everybody the importance of our park and sustaining the growth of our park so that we can continue to provide this economic boost to our dealerships, restaurants, grocery stores, and all of the places where people spend their money when they visit our park.”

George King, who is a member of the Idaho Horse Park Foundation and director and show manager for the Great Western Reining Horse Association, says he has already grappled with losing a participant in one of his events because the venue could not provide them an RV site. Losing that person, who would have had a significant number of entries in the show that would have required renting stall space, cost the event between $5,000 to $6,000 he said. He has not been able to get the person to return to an event since, he said.

“He had the courtesy to let me know that he wasn’t going to come,” King said. “I don’t know how many of them (decided not to come) but never called,” he said.

Competition a factor

Other venues in Oregon and California that have more RV sites could be more attractive for future events if the park does not improve its RV accommodations, King said.

The Idaho Horse Park Foundation is committed to continuing to make upgrades to the park, and already has with additions such as making a second covered arena, Boardman said. But adding RV sites would cost an estimated $1-2 million, according to the agenda packet. The final amount depends partly on what kinds of beautification and other finishes would be part of the project.

It would take an estimated two years to see the economic impact of that investment recovered, and about 10 years to see it recovered through the city’s operational budget, according to the agenda packet. The improvements will generate revenue for the city rather than taxpayers having to foot the bill, a spokesperson for the foundation said at the meeting.

It will be important to look at developing the facility in the context of the city’s comprehensive plan and with what funding is available, said Mayor Debbie Kling.

“I think there is a great need for RV spots,” Kling said. “There’s no question about that. It definitely is something that we need to consider in a very broad perspective.”

Budget discussions tend to occur in the summer.

Erin Banks Rusby - Idaho Press
Erin Banks Rusby - Idaho Presshttps://idahopress.com
Erin Banks Rusby is a reporter for the Idaho Press. You can find her on Twitter, @ErinBanksRusby

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