With the moniker “Horse Capital of the World” it’s no wonder that Ocala, Florida is continuously at the forefront of the equine industry. In the fall of 2014 the Florida Horse Park, located at 11008 S. Hwy 475 in Ocala, opened what is purported to be the largest public equestrian arena in the Southeastern United States. The 212’ x 396 ’x 20’ arena was constructed using a metal building system engineered and fabricated by Allied Steel Buildings of Fort Lauderdale, FL.
The opening of the new arena was right on time for the demanding winter season. From November to April, the Florida Horse Park (FHP) hosts an Eventing series in conjunction with Equiventures. Since 2005, FHP has been hosting competitions for local, national, and international events from dressage to driving marathons.
The new arena is a symbol of success for FHP. Created in 1996 by the Florida Legislature, FHP spent nearly a decade struggling without government funding and relying on private donations. Today FHP not only hosts a variety of equine competitions; there are a number of other activities from athletic events to agriculture shows and more. In 2010 government funding enabled FHP to create a 3,000 square-foot Welcome Center and in 2013, they were awarded $2 million for their state-of-the-art prefab riding arena. The sheer size of the arena at 83,000 square-feet, combined with a completely column-free interior, provides an extremely versatile area for shows, practice, and competitions.
Historically, equestrians travel to Florida for the winter, but with construction complete on the new metal arena, more riders are expected to visit for summer 2015. Equine Alliance of Marion County reports that activities in Marion County impact Florida’s economy by more than $900 million per year. With a vision for FHP over the next decade, new projections will dwarf current numbers.
Allied Steel Buildings was instrumental in the design, engineering and fabrication of the covered riding arena. Allied Steel Buildings’ Vice President Benjamin Meister, who is also an expert in building solutions for the equestrian industry, said: “It has been a great working relationship over the past two years. We were referred to Shawn Doherty the Executive Director of the Florida Horse Park by a few of our arena clients in Marion County. We are grateful to be part of this project and are overwhelmed with the response to the quality and size of the completed area. Thanks to the investments of the state, the hard work of Shawn Doherty and FHP staff, the 'Horse Capital of the World' will maintain its status, year-around.”