After 15 years hosting one of the country’s premier horse events, Expo New Mexico’s relationship with the Arabian Horse Association is riding off into the proverbial sunset.
The AHA says Oklahoma City will host its Youth Nationals event starting in 2016.
The Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau says the annual event kicks more than $4 million into the local economy each July.
“You never want to lose any show, especially a longstanding show such as this,” Expo New Mexico General Manager Dan Mourning said.
But after a $100 million facelift, Oklahoma’s state fairgrounds had too much flash – and too much cash from the city’s own tourist organizations – for the AHA to pass up the chance to move.
“Their facilities are unbelievably state of the art,” Mourning said.
Expo New Mexico and Tingley Coliseum just couldn’t keep up.
“We are much better than we were before. We’re just not at the glitz and that ‘wow’ factor that $100 million gives you that Oklahoma City has,” Mourning told KRQE News 13.
Expo New Mexico’s general manager says there have been plenty of updates at the nearly 60-year-old arena, but lights, fiber optics and a new air handling system aren’t the sort of spending that gets noticed when shows first get booked.
Mourning said he’s already had calls from other equestrian groups who know the week in July used by the AHA will be available next year. He’s optimistic Albuquerque can fill the hole in its schedule and maybe even win the Youth Nationals back when the bid becomes available in 2019.
“There’s no reason in my mind why we can’t do what Oklahoma City’s done at state Fair Park,” Mourning said. “Always a challenge, and like I said, we’re sorry to lose a partner (who’s been here) as long as we’ve had them. But we understand bricks and mortar will win almost every time.”
This time, at least, he’s right.
There aren’t any Tingley-specific improvements in this year’s capital outlay requests at the Roundhouse.
Mourning says he’s also reaching out to private companies.
In 2007, Albuquerque parted ways with the association’s U.S. Nationals, which had been held here every other year for nearly three decades.