AQHA's Potential Relocation to Fort Worth
FORT WORTH, TX—OCTOBER 30, 2019—In February, it was announced that a group of external stakeholders is raising funds for a possible relocation of the American Quarter Horse Association to Fort Worth, Texas.
Yesterday, the Fort Worth City Council approved a 50-year ground lease for the American Quarter Horse Foundation. This action by the Fort Worth City Council does not mean AQHA has made a definitive commitment to relocate.
This is only a step in the process of the possibility of a move. There is no timeline for construction or relocation, as relocation is not guaranteed at this point. It’s important to understand that a move is not imminent and there is no plan for future staffing changes.
"We greatly appreciate our Amarillo employees, who are focused on providing quality service to AQHA members around the world. We plan to keep the board of directors, members and the Association’s employees updated each step of the way as this possible relocation continues to develop," association officials said in a statement released today.
Currently headquartered in Amarillo, the world’s largest equine breed registry and membership organization has contemplated relocating to Cowtown off and on since it was founded in the early 1940s. Interest started anew in February, and a vote from the Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday moved them one step closer.
The idea was sparked by industry stakeholders, external to AQHA staff, to raise funds for a move to Fort Worth, said Craig Huffhines, AQHA CEO. “There have always been folks trying to get us back to Fort Worth,” he said.
Huffhines stressed the deal is still quite a ways off and hinged on the ability of those interested in moving the AQHA to raise the needed money. AQHA staff have stayed “at arm’s length” from the project, he said, so he couldn’t share details about how far along fundraising is or who was involved.
Estimates indicate between $65 million and $80 million would be needed, he said.
“We stayed removed from the process to focus on providing services to our members,” he said.
The Fort Worth City Council approved a 50-year land lease for a spot on Gendy Street with the American Quarter Horse Foundation, which funds the association. The agreement is designed to entice the organization to take over a roughly half-acre spot east of the Western Heritage garage. The building, a multi-story facility about as tall as the parking garage, would house the association’s offices and a museum.
Conceptual designs show a copper-colored modern structure that would stand out slightly from the traditional Art Deco decor of the Will Rogers Complex. The site is a block north of the new Dickies Arena, across the street from the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and next to the Community Arts Center.
In Amarillo, the headquarters features a museum with two components. A hall of fame honors the people and horses that have advanced the American Quarter Horse as a breed while an education center is designed to introduce children to horses.
Huffhines couldn’t say how soon a decision would be made, but the city projected a possible construction date in the spring of 2021.
“This really is a great asset for the city,” Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said at a recent council work session. “It will fit nicely.”
Price said the city had started looking into wooing the AQHA about three years ago.
Because the building would house both a nonprofit and a museum, the foundation will pay about $45,000 to the city annually.
Rent could be reduced if the association donated equipment, like stock trailers to the Fort Worth Herd, or if it holds new events that bring a measurable economic impact to the city. Those events would be in addition to three gatherings AQHA already holds in Fort Worth.
Moving to Fort Worth does offer some business advantages.
Fort Worth is a center for equine competitions, Huffhines said. The AQHA is an international organization so proximity to DFW Airport would be an added convenience and a location within the Will Rogers Center, which sees more than 2 million visitors a year, provides exposure.
“These are all things our leaders will have to evaluate,” he said.