Tucked away in Fairmount Park, just to the east of the Wynnefield Heights neighborhood, there is a stable with dozens of horses where city kids can learn the joys of riding and the less-appreciated pleasures of mucking out stables.
Run by a nonprofit called Work to Ride, the Chamounix Equestrian Center is a beloved institution that hosts summer camps, spring training and all sorts of other activities — weather allowing.
The kids’ access to cantering is limited only by the season: There are no indoor riding facilities, so in the depths of winter, much of the activity is put on hold.
That’s why Work to Ride is planning to open a massive new $4-to-$6 million indoor polo and riding ring, which they hope to break ground on in Spring 2021.
“We have a substantial amount of capital committed already,” said Kareem Rosser, who is running the capital program for Work to Ride’s expansion plans.
Rosser said they hoped to raise more funds, “through our polo connections, which is a very affluent community of individuals, and individuals who are located in Chester County as well.”
Founded in 1994, the Work to Ride program is specifically targeted to children who live in the city’s lower-income neighborhoods, although they host activities that are accessible to kids from outside Philadelphia as well. The organization operates out of the old mounted police facilities in West Fairmount Park, near the Chamounix Tennis Courts, and in between the bridges that lead to Strawberry Mansion and East Falls.
Rosser said Work to Ride offers programming nine months out of the year, and the new indoor ring will allow them to operate in any weather while serving more children, even in the milder seasons.
“We are going to be several disciplines, including polo, show jumping, and just regular riding,” Rosser said.
The new arena will be 45,000 square feet and, according to a presentation made to the Philadelphia Art Commission, will require no city or state funding. The documents provided to the commission included two separate cost tallies, one showing “non-union pricing” at $4.8 million and one showing the price with the prevailing wage at $5.6 million.
The Art Commission must review and approve most new buildings and art in Fairmount Park, but they gave Work to Ride little resistance. A few critiques were made of the building’s coloring, which is a dull yellow, but most board members embraced the design.
Work to Ride will return for further review by the Art Commission this summer.