BETHANY, W.Va. -The commitment of a $3.5 million bridge loan from Sunset Mortgage Co. to Bethany Peace Point Equestrian Center will serve as a bridge to the future, Bethany Mayor Sven de Jong said Monday. He spoke to a gathering of state officials and representatives of the mortgage company, Bethany College and the equestrian facility.

Speaking also as Vice President of Advancement and Marketing at8379Peace-Point-wcontent2.jpg Bethany College, de Jong thanked Gene C. Valentine an alumnus of Bethany College, whose vision and personal financial commitment have been the driving force behind the creation of this facility. de Jong stated that the continued expansion of the horse facility would enhance student life at the college and continue to attract new students.

Nic Ripley, vice president of finance for BPPEC, explained that the financing would facilitate the construction of an additional indoor riding arena and barns at the Brooke County site. The center eventually will offer two indoor arenas, outdoor arenas for both Western and English events, seven barns to house 160 horses, a veterinary annex, and tack shop. Affiliated with Bethany College, the center also serves as home to the college's competitive riding team which, in its first year of existence last year, finished near the top of its conference and was beaten only by West Virginia University, University of Pittsburgh and Penn State.

Executive Director Ellen Fischer said that 22 incoming students indicated they chose to attend Bethany College this fall specifically because of the equine studies programs and the equestrian facility, including some who do not plan to major in equine studies but still hope to participate in intercollegiate riding. That represents about 10 percent of the fall semester's incoming class and includes a student from Germany. Many students, she said, would be bringing their own horses to school with them this fall and boarding them at one of BPPEC's barns.

Stuart Levy, of Sunset Mortgage in Wheeling, said the impact of the equestrian center on the area's economy would be significant. "This program is far-reaching," he said, adding that the endurance trail ride set for Oct. 1-2, expected to attract 100 world-class riders, would create business for the region's hotels and other businesses.

Del. Jack Yost, D-Brooke, agreed, noting that the impact of the Peace Point facility would be felt not only in economic development but tourism and education.

Representing Gov. Joe Manchin III, Scott Sears said, "This (facility) is one of the many things West Virginia has to offer. It is what West Virginia is all about." He thanked Sunset Mortgage for its commitment to the state and to higher education. "The governor supports this 100 percent," he said.

As the group toured the facility by horse-drawn wagon, Fischer pointed out a foal born just a week ago to a Morgan-Quarter Horse mare recently acquired by the center. She said the newborn would add another dimension to the horse care curriculum available to equine studies students as they begin classes in August.

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