SANTA FE – An equestrian center near Santa Fe is up for sale and owners are blaming it on restrictions intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 imposed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
HIPICO Santa Fe, located on South Polo Drive, said in a Monday news release that restrictions imposed by the governor led to the closure of most its operations and the cancellation of events, resulting in a 97% decrease in revenue during 2020. Owners of the property say they would rather not sell it, but they would need investors to keep it going.
The 81 acres west of the Santa Fe Regional Airport is listed by Fay Ranches, Inc., a Montana-based brokerage firm specializing in ranch property, for $4.96 million. The price includes more than 46,000 square feet of covered space, including an indoor arena and multiple barns. There are also three single-family homes, a clubhouse, storage buildings, several outdoor arenas, polo grounds and an RV park.
In June, HIPICO Santa Fe announced it would cancel its annual Summer Series consisting of hunter/jumper equestrian competitions because it had been denied a exception to the public health order pertaining to mass gatherings, despite submitting what it felt was an effective Safe Practices plan to the Department of Health. The plan would have reduced the number of people on the property to between 25 and 220 at any given time, HIPICO co-owner Phyllis Gonzales told the Journal at the time.
“Without the Summer Series, HIPICO Santa Fe as a venue would not exist,” Gonzales said. “The loss of $2.5 million in gross revenue to HIPICO is simply not one that we can recoup through small events throughout the year.”
HIPICO was able to host some small rider clinics and training days and even got into the music business by partnering with AMP Concerts to serve as a venue for a drive-in concert series, “but the income from these events was far less than the projected 2020 revenue required to sustain operations and meet lender obligations,” the release said.
State records show HIPICIO applied for and received $25,000 in CARES Act funding.
A Governor’s Office spokeswoman stood by the restrictions and said it would have been unsafe and unfair to other entities to allow HIPICO’s Summer Series to go on.
“Large gatherings remain unsafe due to the risk of viral spread. That is the unfortunate reality,” said governor’s spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett, adding that more than 3,100 New Mexicans have already died from COVID-19 and thousands more have suffered debilitating effects that could last for years. “The pandemic has been difficult for all of us, including for the families who have lost loved ones and the businesses who have been unable to operate in the same way as years past due to the health risks posed by the virus.”
Current HIPICO owners want to hang onto the property.
“We have been in negotiations with our lender since the pandemic began, when every one of our large events scheduled for 2020 had to be canceled due to the public health order issued by the governor,” co-owner Guy McElvain said. “Unfortunately, we were not able to reach a successful arrangement with our lender that would allow us the long-term stability to recover financially at this point.”
Brian Gonzales, another owner and Phyllis’s husband, said the agreement with the lender requires them to list the property for sale. He said they are looking into expanding the RV park into a year-round operation and are seeking equity investors in the property.
“Both of these options would give us the capital we need to continue our operations,” he said.
The Gonzales and McElvain bought the property, which was going through foreclosure, from Los Alamos National Bank in 2014. An article in the Santa Fe New Mexican at the time said the property was originally listed at $3.9 million but the price was reduced to $2.9 million.