Chicago cowboy works to establish an equestrian center in the city
This summer, Murdock rode his black quarter horse as he led dozens of guests through Hyde Park in his 19th annual horseback ride and picnic, served in a Maywood parade and taught children about horses at the South Shore Cultural Center.
But what “The Man With No First Name” really wants is to succeed at his 20-year quest: persuading Chicago officials to let him establish a permanent equestrian center near Washington Park.
“They keep saying they want me to do it,” said Murdock, 60, founder of the Broken Arrow Horseback Riding Club in the South Shore. “If I don’t stay on them about it, it’s out of sight, out of mind.”
Unfortunately for this South Side cowboy, his dream of setting up about 5 acres for a horse stable, riding areas and classes clashes with the city’s 2016 Olympic bid.
Murdock’s plan calls for the center, which would cost from $8 million to $11 million, to house horses used in the Games. But Chicago’s plan, which places an Olympic stadium in Washington Park, already includes an equestrian venue at Tempel Farms in north suburban Wadsworth.
Moreover, Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), who represents the ward where Murdock’s facility would stand, has not endorsed his plan. Murdock has, however, received encouragement from Alds. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) and Pat Dowell (3rd).
“If we get the Olympics, then we have to do an overall plan for Washington Park,” Cochran said. “I cannot commit until then. I have to stay neutral.”
The International Olympic Committee will announce the host city in October 2009.
Murdock has proposed two locations, near Cottage Grove Avenue and 59th Street and near Martin Luther King Drive and 60th Street.
“We have to go back to Cochran at this point and continue working with him,” said Paul McDermott of Bridgeland Development LLC, Murdock’s consultant. McDermott said they are lining up private donors and grants for the project. “We’re working through some issues right now with the Park District.”
Washington Park once had a stable; its old horse paths remain in use. A race track also was nearby until such gambling was outlawed in 1905 and the track was shuttered.
A new equestrian center on public land likely would require the approval of the City Council and, if in Washington Park, the consent of the Park District.
Between performances, Murdock keeps his horse, American Just-Us, at a stable in south suburban Glenwood.
“There’s something very therapeutic about horses,” Murdock said. “I don’t plan on going nowhere.”