The recent news that the Aiken Steeplechase Association purchased land for a new site for its spring and fall events is a victory for all parties involved.
The move was necessitated a few years ago when the Aiken Horse Park Foundation bought the steeplechase land on Powderhouse Road and converted it into Bruce’s Field, the home of multiple equestrian events each year.
The Aiken Steeplechase Association will now move its two big events a few miles away from the horse district with its acquisition of 140 acres near the intersection of Rudy Mason Parkway, Old Wagener Road and Richland Avenue East. The goal is to have the facility ready in time for the Fall Steeplechase in 2021.
The move gives the Steeplechase Association a blank canvas in many ways.
• The new racecourse will be approximately a ¼ mile longer, allowing more railside parking spots. Paul Sauerborn, president of the Steeplechase Association, estimates about 200 extra spots will be available. That’s welcome news for anyone who is currently on the waiting list for the coveted spots.
• The new land is more than double the size of Bruce’s Field, and will give plenty of room for extra parking during steeplechase events.
• Access to the new site should be better. As anyone who has fought traffic for the Aiken Spring Steeplechase knows, the major roads surrounding the new venue should ease congestion for incoming and outgoing traffic.
The Aiken Horse Park Foundation is also a winner in this deal because it can proceed with the expansion of facilities and amenities. The foundation has already added barns and permanent structures to Bruce’s Field, which allows it to serve the different disciplines that use the facility.
The Spring Steeplechase typically attracts upward of 30,000 spectators and the Fall Steeplechase brings in around 10,000 people. With a history dating back to 1930, the City of Aiken didn’t want anything to happen to two of its premier events. At the City Council meeting last month, it approved $1 million to help the Steeplechase Association with funding for the project that will have an ultimate cost of $3.8 million.
“With the exception of a little golf tournament over in Augusta every April, the Spring Steeplechase has long been among the largest single-day spectator sporting events anywhere in the CSRA,” Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon said at the “State of the City” address.
In a perfect world the Aiken Steeplechase Association would relocate near its traditional home in the horse district, but that wasn’t feasible. And raising nearly $3 million won’t be easy, but we’re confident that the Steeplechase Association will make it work.
We look forward to the new home for the Steeplechase Association, and know that it will be beneficial for Aiken residents and future generations to come.