By BROOKE WANSER
A small crowd gathered behind the Tractor Supply Co. Arena at Harlinsdale Farm Thursday afternoon as city leaders cut a ribbon on a new warm-up arena for the park.
“When this [the park] was imagined, the warm-up arena was always part of it,” said Friends of Franklin Parks Executive Director Torrey Barnhill. “There are horse programs that require a warm-up arena.”
The new arena will mainly be used for dressage, an equestrian sport composed of intricate flat work.
After Friends of Franklin Parks was approached by the Central Tennessee Dressage Association, who offered to fund the project, Barnhill said the project came together quickly.
“We came to the city and said, ‘We’re ready, we have donations, can we go ahead and move forward?’” Barnhill said.
The city agreed, and after many meetings, work began on the formerly grassy paddock.
Though the arena looks like a sand lot to the untrained eye, city parks and recreation superintendent Paige Cruse said the undertaking involved a lot of work from three developers, and finished relatively quickly after construction began in January.
“We had to move electrical that was in the arena, we had to move it on the outside,” she said, noting that they added outlets to the exterior of the arena.
Next, a second contractor added drainage and irrigation heads, before a third contractor dealt with grading the ground, called footing, to a certain “fluffy” consistency, Cruse said.
Prior to cutting the ribbon, Franklin Mayor Dr. Ken Moore credited former mayor Tom Miller, who was in attendance, for his foresight in purchasing Harlinsdale Farm in 2004.
He also credited public-private partnerships, in which the city worked with the two organizations “to bring the horse back to Harlinsdale.”
“I call this our central park,” Moore continued.
The arena is both a financial and educational boon to the park, which is looking to expand horse-related activities.
“Big shows wouldn’t want to come to use our arena and rent it because we didn’t have this,” Barnhill said. “This opens up those doors to bring in additional shows, for different types of disciplines, to use this arena.”
Barnhill said, “revenue from this arena goes back into the parks,” which will then be recirculated for upcoming park projects.
The park is already drawing more equestrian events: the Walking Horse Owner’s Association will host its Fall Classic at Harlinsdale on Oct. 28, and the dressage association will host its Spring Fling event at the park in May.
Alderman Pearl Bransford said she had been a longtime supporter of Franklin parks, and focused on the park’s ability to provide educational opportunities to the community.
“The Friends of Franklin Parks have done a great job promoting the educational component of what goes on on a horse farm, in a polo arena.” She pointed to several children in attendance from the local Boys and Girls Club.
“It’s not just for us adults, it’s for the next generation,” she said.
After the ceremonial ribbon-cutting, the crowd was treated to a dressage display by national-level rider Jody Wilson and her horse Bentley.