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Gail Noggle says she approached developers of a 1,200-acre equestrian center about coming to Republic after plans failed in Christian County.
Gail Noggle says she approached developers of a 1,200-acre equestrian center about coming to Republic after plans failed in Christian County.

Republic recruits $350M equine center

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Republic Planning and Development Director Gail Noggle has been working since spring to make sure one of the largest equestrian centers in the country comes to fruition in her city’s backyard.

Now, it’s up to Republic City Council to annex nearly 1,000 acres to move the $350 million project forward.

However, sources with knowledge of the development proposal are casting doubts on the validity of the plans that include a 15,000-seat arena, 300-room hotel and indoor water park, and a criminal charge has surfaced for one of the developers representing an anonymous investor group.

On Dec. 19, the investors known as Eclipse Event Center LLC filed plans with the city of Republic to privately finance an equestrian center and mixed-use development on 1,200 acres near Interstate 44 and Missouri Highway 60. By comparison, the Kentucky Horse Park in equine-friendly Louisville, Ky., covers 1,032 acres and operates with the help of government funding, according to Mernye Langer, a principal of Burbank, Calif.-based equestrian consulting and development company Langer Equestrian Group Inc.

Langer, who’s worked on projects such as the city-owned WestWorld in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the Los Angeles Equestrian Center and its 55 miles of trails, was taken aback by the size and scope of the Republic project.

“It’s quite large. This would make me want to ask, ‘Who is paying, and how is it going to support itself?’” Langer said, noting the recreational components of the Republic center are rare for the size of the facility proposed. “It is often a challenge even on the smaller scale to figure out a viable operating model.”

Features of the expansive development – slated just north of Republic – include indoor and outdoor arenas, 60 cottages, manmade lakes with 64 lakefront cabins, 30 condos, an RV park, spa, fitness center and an 11-mile cross-country course for riders. Plans call for 12 horse shows per year and events such as rodeos, trade shows, conventions and concerts.

The investors had planned to build the center on 477 acres south of Rogersville in Christian County but scuttled those plans in April due to infrastructure challenges, said Tim Chancellor, a Coldwell Banker HomeTeam Realty agent in Branson who is representing the Eclipse group.

Chancellor declined to name the investors involved.

Noggle said to this point, the developers have not asked for a dime from the city. Considering the land is in an enhanced enterprise zone, she said the Eclipse group could receive incentives for the jobs created.

According to the plans, an estimated 1,500 construction jobs would be required as well as 800 permanent jobs to staff the equestrian center.

Karissa Cassidy of Fair Grove-based Katalyst Sporthorses said she had been working with one of the center’s developers, Carl D. Scott, as a consultant until about six months ago. She severed ties with the project citing unanswered questions about the group’s investors and concerns about legal challenges Scott is facing.

She pointed to a handful of cases against Scott that she found on Case.net, the Missouri’s judiciary’s case information portal, as well as numerous cases against Springfield-based JKC Contractors Inc. Scott is named as a defendant in more than one lawsuit against JKC, and Cassidy said she understood him to work for the company.

Scott is the defendant in three active cases, two involving promissory notes with Commerce Bank and a criminal case in Taney County where he faces a felony charge for passing a bad check of $500 or more. A hearing is scheduled in Taney County on Feb. 9, and Scott’s lawyer, Springfield attorney Nancy Price, said she expects the bad check case to be settled soon.

“It’s a business dispute that we believe will be settled between the clients,” Price said.  

Scott said the legal issues stem from his connection to JKC Contractors, where he worked as vice president. He said the company has been out of business for about a year, and the charge in Taney County stems from a company check he signed. The default on the promissory notes stem from being temporarily unemployed, Scott said.

Scott is not an investor, but he has been working on behalf of the investors since Day 1. He said there are three groups of investors representing more than 50 individuals from as far away as Arizona and Detroit.

PFI Western Wear Store owner Randy Little said he was approached in the summer by two of the project’s investors about becoming involved with the venture.

“They were looking at options,” said Little, who also declined to name the investors. “Being involved in the western-wear business for 30-plus years and being in the horse equine business, it’s only natural for us to have a discussion or two.”

Little said he wouldn’t rule out becoming a sponsor of the center, though he’s not sure of the project’s viability.

“It may be a little overstated. But if it all comes true, I think it would be great,” Little said.

Noggle said she approached Chancellor about scouting locations near Republic after hearing that the project wouldn’t take off in Christian County.

“I talked to (Scott) and (Chancellor), and asked them to come look at a few areas,” Noggle said.

She said they looked at three locations, but were most interested in the accessibility of the land southwest of the James River and I-44 interchange. She then arranged a meeting at her office with 11 property owners – who weren’t looking to sell – along with Scott and Chancellor.

Scott said the investors have the 11 properties under contract for a total of $20 million.

“This could bring a lot of money to the area,” Scott said.

Land sales are contingent upon annexation by the city and the approval of development plans, she said.

“There is still a lot to be hammered out,” Noggle said, noting details in the preliminary development plans would need to be worked out before Republic City Council would consider the plans in late February.

The first step, she said, is to annex 909 acres, a move that will receive a public hearing and first reading Jan. 9. The second reading and vote is expected Jan. 23.[[In-content Ad]]

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