Scottsdale’s free downtown carriage rides have received a temporary lease on life nearly a month after the operator threatened to end them when the city canceled her contract.
And it came about after developer Carter Unger read of her plight in the Scottsdale Progress.
The contract with Scottsdale Horse & Carriage paid as much as $14,000 per year and allowed it to use the Noriega livery stable in historic Old Town for staging. The company also ran for-profit carriage rides in downtown Scottsdale using the same stable.
Although the city said Scottsdale Horse & Carriage was welcome to continue running its rides downtown, it said the company had to vacate the stable by the end of the year.
Operating carriage rides without the stable did not make fiscal sense, said Teri Todd, owner of Scottsdale Horse & Carriage.
Without a dedicated staging area or city subsidy, she said she could not justify the costs she would incur trucking in her supplies and horses every week to operate $40-per-ride services for a few hours during the day.
Todd petitioned the city to continue the contract or at least allow her use of the area outside the stable for staging.
The city has since said that Dave Alford of the Parada del Sol Rodeo nonprofit is in negotiations to create a Parada del Sol Rodeo Museum at the stable to open in 2019.
However, Todd, who is friends with Alford, said the museum would only use the stable’s interior and that he supports her continued use of the outside.
The city has not made a decision on that petition.
Todd said she could not wait much longer for an answer.
She had shut down her rides and was contemplating selling her horses, carriages and supplies because October is prime selling season for animals and equipment in the equestrian community, she said.
That is when she met Unger, a local developer whose company owns numerous properties throughout downtown Scottsdale.
He read about Todd’s story in the Scottsdale Progress and reached out to her to help find a solution.
“We should be able to figure this out as a community to support the last horse-drawn carriage in Old Town Scottsdale,” he said.
Ultimately, Unger – whose company has a management contract with the city for WestWorld of Scottsdale – offered to pay Todd for a sponsorship on her carriages out of his WestWorld marketing budget.
The sponsorship will include WestWorld branding on the outside of the carriages and a place for flyers with a calendar of upcoming events.
“This should drive up attendance (at WestWorld), which increases revenues for the City of Scottsdale,” Unger said.
He did not disclose the amount the sponsorship will pay but said it will provide Todd enough money to continue operating through December.
While the deal does not solve the livery stable issue, Todd said it gives enough of a cushion to continue operations while she waits for an answer from the city.
Assistant City Manager Brent Stockwell indicated the city should have an answer for Todd in the next few days.
Unger said he plans to reach out to contacts in the Scottsdale equestrian community, including Parada del Sol and Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, to lock down further sponsorship opportunities to keep the carriage rides funded in the future.
Both parties described the deal as a win-win situation.
While Unger said he reached out to Todd because he thought it was the right thing to do, he also acknowledged that it just made business sense as well.
“This is altruistic and in my best interests,” he said.
Unger said that under the new deal, the carriage ride route will run through the arts district in order to encourage people to visit galleries and amenities like Museum of the West.
He said that route could be expanded in the future to include Marshall Way, Scottsdale Stadium, the Civic Center and Fifth Avenue – where he owns many properties and is planning a major new development.
“There’s a lot of change coming, and it’s important to show people there’s an in between,” Unger said. “We can build new things while still honoring our heritage.”
Todd described Unger’s original phone call as “a godsend.”
“I am very humbled and grateful that someone in the Scottsdale community stepped up when the city stepped down,” she said.
She added, “One of the things that impressed me about him is he came through with what he said he was going to do.”