DALLAS — Activists are fighting efforts by the City of Dallas to seize a private soccer complex to make room for a golf course and equestrian center.
“They’ve just told me they need the land, and they’re going to get it,” said Rhadames Solano.
In December, the City Council approved the use of eminent domain to seize Solano’s 23-acre soccer complex on Elam Road near Interstate 45 and Loop 12.
The city says it needs his property to make room for its sweeping Trinity River Corridor Project, which includes an equestrian center that will accompany an 18-hole golf course planned nearby on a former landfill.
“They just want to take it,” Solano said. “You’re going to destroy a park to build another park.”
The issue has ignited the anger of community activists like Carlos Quintanilla, who accuse the city of favoring elite equestrians.
“This is a facility serving our Hispanic community for many, many years,” Quintanilla said at a recent rally at the soccer complex. “They’re going to be investing millions and millions of dollars for horse owners. Why is the Hispanic community always shortchanged?”
Indeed, Solano does have supporters from critics at City Hall who question whether Dallas can afford an equestrian center.
“I think my overarching concern is, will this park be successful?” asked Council member Angela Hunt. “I am concerned that we’re taking soccer fields being used by kids, but my overall concern is about its ultimate success, and will we as taxpayers have to bear the burden if it’s not successful?”
The city will pay for the $12 million construction costs of the Texas Horse Park, but non-profits would be responsible for running the facility. The center is planned to offer trail rides and camps to serve low-income neighbors.
“It’s going to have an impact that goes much farther than just the community,” said Patrick Bricker, CEO of Equest. His non-profit grouip, which uses horses as a form of therapy for disabled children and adults, plans to spend $800,000 a year operating out of the Dallas Horse Center.
Bricker also hopes to expand his group's reach to help injured veterans.
“I think the people that live there now, and the things that are going to happen there are going to be positive,” he said.
The city hasn’t said whether the eminent domain fight could hold up construction of the horse park.
Solano is hoping a judge will rule in his favor. The former youth soccer coach bought the undeveloped land 15 years ago with the dream of opening his own soccer complex. He cleared the brush and installed soccer fields along with offices and concession stands.
The city says some of the buildings were constructed illegally, and a spokesperson said the city made it clear back in 1997 — a year before Solano bought the land — that it wanted that property as part of its master plan for the Trinity Forest.
“The city has attempted to reach an amicable price settlement for years, but the property owner has refused to make a counter offer," ” City of Dallas spokesman Frank Librio wrote in an e-mail to News 8.
The city offered Solano $252,000 — more than ten times the land’s appraised value — but Solano said no amount would convince him to leave.
“We paid for this property. We own it,” he said. “My family’s not ready to give it up at this time.”