A high-level equestrian center at Parc Boël in La Louvière
Developing a permanent equestrian infrastructure on the Duferco La Louvière site is the crazy dream carried by the Écuries d’Écaussinnes.
On the edge of the Canal du Center, a stone’s throw from downtown La Louvière, Parc Boël is a green lung of the City of Wolves. Like the old neighboring steel production site, it is still looking for a conversion. The park extends over more than 22ha with in its center, the Château Boël, saved from ruin at great expense by Duferco at the end of the last century and maintained since.
The interest of the site has not escaped Christophe Ameeuw, the owner of Écuries d’Écaussinnes and great organizer of equestrian events all over the world, who would see it there. a large high-level equestrian center. “Between Antwerp or the north of Limburg and the south of Paris, there is no permanent infrastructure to host international equestrian events”, he admits. Ameeuw launched the Longines Masters years ago, an internationally renowned competition that is exported to Paris, Lausanne, Los Angeles, Hong Kong or Dubai.
A private park, open to the public
“It is still only a project, of which economic feasibility has not yet been studied in detail“, warns Olivier Waleffe, director of Duferco Wallonia in charge of the management of the group’s real estate assets.
“We do not wish to transfer the burden of maintaining this magnificent site to the municipality to make it a totally public site.”
Why an equestrian center? “This would allow maintain the site as a green space and open it to the public for events without losing its private character “, adds Waleffe.” We do not wish to transfer the cost of maintaining this site to the municipality to make it a totally public site. It would risk deteriorating for lack of means or maintenance “, he notes again.” Hence our desire to find an economically viable project without being based on subsidies.
The idea would be to set up in the park five to six tracks to organize outdoor events, for dressage, obstacles or cross competitions, and reconvert some of the buildings, such as the farm or the former stables of the castle, but also some industrial buildings to house the infrastructure for welcoming horses (800 to 1000 boxes) and riders as well as the catering industry. The entire site would then total around thirty hectares.
On paper anyway, the project could attract activities every weekend from spring to fall, for events of different levels.
And to hear the promoters of the project, the site does not lack assets. “La Louvière is ideally located, between the Netherlands, Germany, France and England, so many countries very fond of jumping in Europe. The Charleroi and especially Liège airports who have great expertise in transporting horses, are a stone’s throw away. We are close to a motorway junction. And that would be a way of bringing visitors to tourist attractions like the elevators and the Canal du Center for example, “says Ameeuw.
“Between Antwerp or the north of Limburg and the south of Paris, there is no permanent infrastructure to host international equestrian events.”
As has been said, the project is still only at the stage of preliminary studies and reflection. Feasibility studies and the economic and financial package still need to be established. But in the best of all worlds, its implementation does not require pharaonic work, it could be up and running relatively quickly. “If we could be ready to build a rear base for the Paris Olympics in 2024, it would be a great opportunity,” said Ameeuw.
And then, it will be necessary to come to an agreement with the municipal authorities and the residents. The City of La Louvière has indicated its wish to see him open to the public, regardless of the projects that develop there.