Wellington Council Shows Interest In SR 7 Horse Park

Members of the Wellington Village Council got more details this week about a horse park proposal eyed for the K-Park property at the intersection of State Road 7 and Stribling Way.

At Monday’s agenda review meeting, local businessman Jack Van Dell proposed a “world-class” resort on the site that would include a hotel, veterinarian training facility and stadium that could double as a civic facility.

Van Dell spoke as a representative for the yet-unnamed group who has put together the plan. He asked council members for a letter of support and assistance in securing state and federal funding.

“This site is the entrance to Wellington’s horse community,” Van Dell said. “It’s the best place to put this.”

As not to take away from Wellington’s other equestrian venues, the horse park would cater to Western riding — notably the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) show circuit, and also intercollegiate competition.

“When I first came here 35 years ago, there were a lot of quarter horses,” Van Dell said. “But as the English shows expanded, there was not room enough to keep them going and they left. They are ready to come back, and they want a proper facility.”

Van Dell said that Wellington’s equestrian community is currently a “half circle.”

“We have a complete and wonderful English show circuit, but we have zero [Western] shows,” he said. “There are more than 800,000 people in the AQHA. The difference is astronomical.”

In Loxahatchee Groves and The Acreage alone, Van Dell said there are more than 3,000 AQHA competitors, and they ride year round.

“They are a completely different group,” he said. “They will travel during spring and summer. They are here 12 months a year. This would extend the season for us.”

The new venue would complement the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center and Equestrian Village, Van Dell said.

“Putting another large horse facility in Wellington won’t take away from existing venues, it will do the exact opposite,” he explained. “It’s the same theory as when Home Depot and Lowe’s put their businesses next to each other. Everyone who wants to buy a hammer will go to that area. The more horses we have in Wellington, the more horses we’re going to have in Wellington.”

To accommodate year-round riding, the facility would have three covered arenas, as well as an enclosed, air-conditioned stadium that could fit 4,000 to 5,000 people, he said.

“It would be able to host any horse event from rodeos to horse shows,” Van Dell noted. “We could hold two to three horse shows simultaneously. There would also be a farriers work area and trailer and RV parking.”

The stadium could also house other events. “We’ve been talking with the local chambers of commerce, and they would be able to hold conferences, trade shows or anything else,” he said.

The stadium would be built to hurricane shelter standards, and would accommodate people and animals. Additionally, the barns on site would provide a hurricane-safe place for the equestrian community.

Van Dell also noted that there is a desire for an American international riding school, similar to those found across the world.

“There is no wonderful place to come and learn to ride in the U.S.,” he said. “It will be the world’s best riding school. We’ll invite professional trainers and riders from all over the world to come on a year-round basis and partake. I expect it to be quite an addition to the whole concept.”

Van Dell envisioned weekly sessions with 30 to 40 riders coming to train, staying in the hotel and then competing on the weekends. The stadium would include a private club house for members of the riding school.

He also said that his group wanted to reach out to Wellington residents, who would have the opportunity to come and get exposure to the equestrian world. “Some will want to come and ride, others will just come and bring their families,” Van Dell said.

A key piece to the property would be a 130-room hotel that will be built and operated by the same owners of the Hampton Inn on Forest Hill Blvd. “They are committed to the project fully,” Van Dell said.

Another much-desired element would be a veterinarian facility. Van Dell said several universities — including Auburn University, which toured Wellington this week — had shown interest.

“This would be a clinic or teaching facility,” he said. “There would be dormitories for students on site, and the hotel operators have been kind enough to say that they would take care of housekeeping in the dorms.”

Van Dell said the site would be about 80 percent recreational and civic, and 20 percent retail and restaurant.

“We’d have about 30 shops and restaurants in the middle to high end,” he said. “Western riders need different clothing, boots and equipment. We have interest from some local shops and some from out of state who would open up another place down here. There are two or three major restaurants who want to open up.”

He also proposed a performance hall with space for 200 to 500 people.

The project, he said, would have tremendous economic impact on Wellington.

“There would be many permanent operating and supporting jobs,” Van Dell said. “This would be 15 to 20 businesses, all working with each other. It’s not like putting together one business.”

Van Dell said the next step would be for council members to draft a letter of intent to support the project, and requested assistance from the village’s lobbyists to help secure funds for development.

“We will talk to a lot of other people once we get a commitment from the village saying they’d like to see this project go forward,” Van Dell said.

Council members were largely in support of the proposal, but requested more details.

“What is appealing to me is the comprehensive nature of this project,” Councilman John Greene said. “I didn’t want to see the site pieced off and sold.”

Councilwoman Anne Gerwig was concerned about funding the project, but Van Dell noted that the specifics would have to be ironed out once more details are set.

“First we have to have your support,” he said.

Council members directed staff to continue talking with the group and set the item on the agenda for more discussion.


  1. There used to be a western riding horse park/area along 441 near where WalMart is now. As traffic became heavier and heavier it seemed a very bad location for equestrian activites – much too close to dangerous traffic, should a horse ever get loose. I think the same way about this proposed venue.

    As posted above, there are also issues of impact on residential communities very close to the proposed park. Not to mention the increased traffic to Stribling that will result from the shops, hotel, etc.

    Is anyone even thinking about the HUGE apartment complex that will be opening soon near the Hampton Inn – it will start to throw lots more traffic on its own, and I think a lot of that is going to end up at Stribling. This end of Wellington could become a nightmare.

    Please find a more appropriate site for the park and its attendant hotel, etc.

  2. Well I guess we know what the problem is with this horse park – our ‘manure’ must smell different in Loxahatchee than Wellington. The comment this park would be better in Loxahatchee shows the bias and ignorance of the Western rider. We’re not talking about filling this great complex with local events and/or riders – although it would be great to have 1 covered arena in this county that lets us get out of the heat and elements and work our horses during the rainy season. This facility would bring ropers, reiners, barrel racers, Western pleasure and dressage riders, along with every event AQHA sponsors with horses and riders every bit as expensive and talented as those who ride WEF. Western doesn’t imply broke down, backyard horses – have you heard of Congress, NFR finals, do you see the money some of these riders make, did you see events like these at World Equestrian Games?? Wake up and smell the manure – you have 2 disciplines worshiped in this area – dressage & jumpers. Visit Perry, GA, Tampa, FL, google barrel racing news or PRCA, turn on the TV and see the Professional Bull Riders sponsored by Ford, Coca Cola, etc These aren’t your backyard horses who you think belong in Loxahatchee.
    You don’t even understand the difference between an RV park from a hook up available to trailers for the weekend or weeks shows. You want to worry about RV parks – check out what Jim Brandon has planned.

  3. RV park? Where is there an RV park? The spots on the property are for the competitors to stay in for the weekend they are there. Not to take residence!
    I am so excited! I have horses, I ride western, and I pay taxes. I am not a millionaire. I am a member of the professional working class and I own horses that I love to show! Unfortunately I can’t ride here! There are two arenas that have shows for us. They are both uncovered and we can have shows weather permitting. We are “not allowed” to ride in the fancy English arenas for fear we will mess up their footing.
    I can tell you that I travel all over the country and show my horses. We are welcomed into other cities because we SPEND money!
    I have my house for sale to move where we are welcome!

  4. 1. It must also be noted that Councilman Greene made the comment during the Agenda Review meeting where this presentation took place; that residents in the Equestrian Preserve didn’t want an RV site and council didn’t want to allow more RVs in the Preserve,and that this KPark site could possibly be able to house all RVs related to the Preserve!

    (Ain’t that great? The Preserve equestrians do not want an RV park in THEIR area, but go ahead and dump one on Stribling Rd, near SR7, next to Oakmont Estates and the Castellina Development, a church and across the street from 2 public schools! Guess the public can guess whom Councilman Greene favors. Mr. Greene wants a better environment for those in the Preserve than the rest of the lowly non-millionaire peons in the Village of Wellington.)

    An RV or trailer park brings the same undesirable affects on Stribling Rd., as it does in the Equestrian Preserve. (Review the complaints from those in the Equestrian Preserve to see what those who live near or operate near the KPark site will have to endure).

    2. When other people have entertained development anywhere in Wellington, the Council has always asked about high paying jobs being brought to the Village. That question wasn’t even asked by the current council.

    3. Does the Village really need another strip mall area along SR 7? Do we need more restaurants and shops on SR 7? What high paying jobs does that bring? As for equestrian related shops in the strip mall, that can mean spas, clothing stores, dry cleaners, etc. Those are not high paying jobs and would conflict with other businesses deep within Wellington. A hotel does not bring high paying jobs, either. The possibility of a vet school raises the stakes, but that is not a guarantee. It’s just something that is being dangled. IF this ‘anonymous group’ (Mr. Van Dell has stated which side he supports in the equestrian preserve matters) can get a written commitment from this vet school, that would be another matter.

    4. This horse park seems more appropriate to the Loxahatchee area off of Southern Blvd, rather than smack dab near a big mall, schools, church and tight ly packed residential areas.

    Those who live nearby need to know TODAY!, what may be coming their way. The Council of 3 seem very interested in quickly selling off this land to resolve an equestrian matter that has erupted in the Preserve.

    The Bellissimo project was too ambitious for the South Shore and Pierson Road area; and this Horse Park is inappropriate for this KPark property which is so close to bustling traffic, and more importantly, to the residential areas so close by.

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