Welcome. Today we publish the first installment of our new Ocala Blog, your online source for information about all things Ocala. Since Ocala is a thriving, rapidly evolving community, there is always something interesting going on here. Although we will be emphasizing issues of interest to home sellers and buyers, we will also delve into other topics. We will report on the local economy, civic planning, events about town, and the dining scene. Join us every week and share your thoughts. Let’s enjoy the ride together.
Horse Capital of the World
Ocala, long the horse capital of the world, is at an inflection point. The World Equestrian Center will open its facilities soon. When it does, it will act as a stimulus for growth of a magnitude the area has actually shunned for some time. As a result, the city will become one of the most exciting tourist destinations in the South Eastern United States. The influx of equestrians that it attracts will strain the existing infrastructure. The county will have to upgrade and expand the road system and develop new transportation options, both air and train. Professionals and entrepreneurs will migrate here to seize the opportunity to serve the needs and demands of the growing population. Our Ocala Blog will follow these developments and address them in future articles.
A Brief History of Ocala’s Horse Industry
But how did we get here? Lets take a look at the history of Ocala’s equine industry. The first thoroughbred horse breeding venture, Rosemere Farms, came to Ocala in 1936. Twenty three years earlier, Carl G. Rose arrived to contract to build the modern road system that Marion County badly needed. To his surprise, he found the local soil contained a high concentration of limestone, a key ingredient required to manufacture asphalt. As he set about laying roads throughout the county, he also became aware the limestone rich soil has another benefit. It is ideal for growing Kentucky Blue Grass and that in turn is the ideal feed for raising champion thoroughbreds. So he used his road building profits to launch Rosemere Farms.
In 1943 he bought a large tract of land along Highway 200 and expanded his thoroughbred operation. The next big breakthrough came in the early 1950’s when a stallion named Needles was foaled and trained here. In 1956 Needles won the Kentucky Derby, finished a close second in the Preakness and won the Belmont Stakes. That earned Ocala respect as a breeding ground for world class thoroughbreds. Affirmed, foaled and trained here, cemented that reputation when he won the Triple Crown in 1978. All the while Ocala avoided growth opportunities it embraces today. Amazingly, the area even declined an overture from Disney to build a state of the art amusement park here. The company then selected its second choice, a sleepy little town called Orlando.
The World Equestrian Center
But how did the World Equestrian Center, scheduled to open in January of 2021, come to be built here? Years ago, Larry Roberts, a trucking magnate from Ohio, visited Ocala. As a lover of horses, he was amazed by the beautiful, verdant countryside which awakened a dream in him. He envisioned a world class, luxury planned unit development that would offer the best of everything to equestrians and golfers. His dream came to fruition in the magnificent community of Golden Ocala.
Then Larry began to think outside the box again. Since Ocala is the horse capital of the world, he would build a World Equestrian Center here. The complex of venues he envisioned would be capable of hosting the greatest equine competitions on the planet. Such a facility would attract people from far and wide and truly put Ocala on the world map. When the facility opens next January, its focal point will be a 145,000 sq. ft. main arena. The center will also feature twenty one other venues capable of hosting every form of equine competition at a world championship level. This changes everything!
The adventure begins. – Andy K.