The lone surviving, privately owned horse ranch in the Town of Hempstead began its rebranding Saturday with about 200 horse enthusiasts who touted the facility as a community jewel.
The old Lakewood Stables was renamed the New York Equestrian Center, transformed, supporters said, from a rundown relic into a state-of-the-art, year-round, indoor riding arena.
The premiere of the center, delayed by superstorm Sandy and wintry weather, included tours, a ribbon-cutting ceremony and equine demonstrations. The weekend-long grand opening celebration will conclude Sunday with the West Hempstead facility's first horse show.
"We only have this riding school on the South Shore of Long Island," said Frank Bradford, former president of the Nassau-Suffolk Horsemen's Association. He later added, "This has been the last man standing in Nassau for a long time."
Local leaders praised the $1 million revamp of the near-century-old Eagle Avenue facility. They said the stables would enhance the community while maintaining the area's history. "The old stables were beyond repair and needed to be reduced," said Rosalie Norton, president of the West Hempstead Community Support Association. "It was turned around, and it is what it is today."
Co-owner Alex Jacobson, a real estate broker and developer from Baldwin Harbor, has said he bought the 2-acre stable in 2006 to raze it and build condos. "I decided against it after realizing how important it is to the community and to have access to the park," Jacobson said.
The energy-efficient, solar-powered and climate-controlled facility has a 30,000-square-foot enclosed riding arena, 63 new stalls, a 7,000-square-foot mezzanine with 99 seats, and 40 on-site parking spots. The center offers trail rides next door through Hempstead Lake State Park's 775 acres.
"I love horses. They are beautiful," said Kayla Girardin, 13, of Merrick. "Now that the center is fully open, this place is beautiful."