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St. Charles County Connection e-Newsletter Articles

Posted on: January 3, 2024

County Purchases National Equestrian Center in Lake Saint Louis

a person riding a white horse

One of the few remaining places for big horse shows in the St. Louis region will soon become part of the St. Charles County Parks system.

The National Equestrian Center (NEC), a 54-acre site at 6880 Lake Saint Louis Blvd., is being sold to St. Charles County for $5.9 million, following a unanimous vote by the County Council in October.

St. Charles County Parks Director Ryan Graham says there’s nothing like the NEC for hundreds of miles around.

“Without the NEC, your big horse shows that need room to stable hundreds of horses, they just couldn’t fit anywhere else around here,” Graham says. “They’d have to go to either Sedalia, Mo. or Springfield, Ill.”

In the past, Queeny Park in St. Louis County hosted equestrian competitions, but now it hosts only one a year on a much smaller scale focused on cross country trials. Boone County had also operated an equestrian facility at one time, but no more.

“It’s a tourism destination that attracts people from around the country, and we look forward to carrying on the tradition of hosting high quality equestrian events, and expanding the operations and offerings of the center,” Graham says.

Graham says the site could be used for horse-related events and other things—everything from rodeos to music festivals, barbecue competitions, car shows, cornhole tournaments, antique shows, flea markets, dog shows and more. It also provides the opportunity to introduce kids and families to the art of riding, handling, and training horses and the recreational, emotional, and therapeutic benefits of doing so.

The site features three arenas, six barns, 585 horse stalls, 63 camping spaces and almost four acres under roof. The main show area features more than 5,000 square feet of upper-level banquet space that can seat up to 250 people overlooking the arena. This space is available to rent for birthday parties, wedding receptions and special occasions.

Purchased in the 1990s by Carmelo Natoli (of Natoli Engineering fame), the center has been managed by Dale Natoli, whose vision made the NEC a nationally known venue for horse shows and competitions. With developers seeking to convert the site to new homes, Dale Natoli approached the County about sale of the property to preserve equestrian use and greenspace around the facility. Graham acknowledged that this acquisition wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity and willingness of the Natoli family to sell the property at below the appraised value, which amounts to a donation of the difference to St. Charles County.

Plans call for keeping the center fully operational with its existing show schedule, while the County Parks Department takes over day-to-day administration. The new park will complement two other County parks where horseback riding trails are provided: Broemmelsiek Park and Indian Camp Creek Park.  

County Executive Steve Ehlmann has attended horse shows at the facility and has been impressed with the operation and pledges to maintain the same high standards.

In recognition of Carmelo Natoli and Dale Natoli’s vision for the NEC, the large arena will be renamed “the Natoli Arena.”

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