Wills Park Equestrian Foundation and City of Alpharetta Break Ground on Revitalization of Wills Park Equestrian Center
Thursday, November 11th, 2021
The five-year master plan includes building a new competition ring, the installation of new drainage and footing in all competition rings and the covered arena, new barns, shaded spectator seating and an office/spectator building to enhance the overall experience for horses, riders and spectators. These infrastructure upgrades will ensure the equestrian center’s service to the community while empowering it to better compete with other horse show facilities throughout the Southeast.
The first phase of construction is focused on building the new 150’ x 340’ competition ring, which is targeted for completion in Spring 2022. The Foundation and City selected Longwood Arenas, which constructed the rings at the acclaimed Bruce’s Field in Aiken, SC as well as other major horse show facilities, to build the new competition ring.
“Improving the footing at Wills Park is one of our top priorities,” Sims said. “We’re delighted to be working with such a highly regarded arena construction company.”
The $1 million ring construction project includes demolition of the existing parking lot on the western side of the facility, site clearing, stormwater drainage improvements and grading to the site. It also encompasses underground electrical, sewer installation for future buildings, and installing the drainage, base, footing, fencing and lighting for the new competition ring.
The Foundation, a 501(c)3 corporation, was founded in 2018 by Sims with a goal to create a capstone equestrian experience for northern Atlanta’s robust community of riders and spectators.
In 2020, the City of Alpharetta committed to match every dollar raised by the Foundation to fund the equestrian center’s master plan. On Nov. 2, Alpharetta voters passed the city’s $29.5 million bond for improvements of more than a dozen Alpharetta parks. That bond secures a $5 million fund dedicated to the equestrian center to provide the city’s matching dollars for the anticipated total of $10 million to revitalize the facility.
“We are committed to promoting access to the life-changing benefits of the equestrian experience to help grow our athletes of all ages, incomes and abilities,” said Sims, whose involvement with Wills Park spans decades as a horse-show-mom.
Located on more than 60 acres of rolling fields and woods, the equestrian center has been hosting top-rated horse shows, dog shows, reining shows, an annual rodeo and other community activities since its inception in the early 1970s. It remains one of the nation’s few equestrian facilities located in a thriving suburb of a major city.
The equestrian center is one of the few Alpharetta city recreational operations that pays for itself. The annual budget for maintenance and operation is covered by about $330,000 in fees that the horse park returns each year to the city’s budget.