The Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Council will contribute $200,000 to help build what has turned out to be the somewhat controversial equestrian center in East Milton.
MILTON — The Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Council will contribute $200,000 to help build what has turned out to be the somewhat controversial equestrian center in East Milton.
The covered arena, to be located on county-owned property at the intersection of U.S. Highway 90 and Bobby Brown Road, has been in the works for years. County Commissioner Bob Cole has been setting aside money to build the arena from his District 2 recreation funds since he took office, and had saved more than $1 million of the estimated $1.2 million needed.
Commissioners earlier this month delayed voting on whether to approve the project until early next year so the developers can present more information to the board.
“Never have I in the 10 years I’ve been on the board of county commissioners seen a county commissioner get questioned this much about a project in his district with the funds he represents in his district,” Cole said. “It’s been well vetted and it’s a project we want in District 2.”
The equestrian center will feature a 200-foot by 300-foot covered pavilion, a judges’ booth and meeting room, and restrooms.
The TDC voted unanimously Wednesday to contribute the $200,000 if the County Commission approves it.
“I was just totally amazed at how much time, energy and effort and how long this has been going on,” said Dorothy Slye, a member of the TDC and manager of the Navarre Beach fishing pier. “You have such a committed group. I think it would be like a slap in the face to these folks who have volunteered their time to put this together and not support it.”
Kyle Holley, a TDC member and one of the developers of the equestrian center, said the project is needed. Although it’s been called an equestrian center, the arena is designed to be used for a variety of events, including concerts, rodeos and other programs.
“Some people will say, ‘Well, that’s an equestrian center.’ Some people will say, ‘That’s a covered arena.’ Some people will say ‘That’s the agriplex,’ ” Holley said. “What’s very interesting to me about all of that is that all of those things are true depending on your frame of reference. If you have a horse, you might look at that picture and say that’s a small equestrian center. If you don’t have a horse, you might look at it and say that’s a big covered building from which I can do an event. If you are an ag-minded person like a master gardener, you would look at this picture and say that’s an agricultural complex.
“I think that is evidence of the multiple uses. It’s more than one thing to more than one type of person.”
Holley abstained from voting on the funding because of his involvement in the project.
County Commissioners are expected to discuss and possibly vote on the equestrian center at their meeting Jan. 22.
Contact Daily News Business Editor Dusty Ricketts at 850-315-4448 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DustyRnwfdn.