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June Ates Arena opens in Santa Rosa County

SANTA ROSA COUNTY   --  A new outdoor arena in Santa Rosa County is ready for business.  The new facility is named after local horse enthusiast June Ates, whose family has lived in Santa Rosa County for generations. 

Friday marks the first event at the arena with the 'Stampede Classic'.

David Phillips just loves horses and rodeos.  For as long as he can remember, he has always dreamed of Santa Rosa County having its own Equestrian Center to host competitions. 
For years a dirt patch surrounded by small bleachers and an old announcer's booth was all they had.

"That arena, I've seen a lot of kids grow up in that thing.  Now they've got kids riding and that makes me an old man" said David Phillips, Santa Rosa County Resident.

It took Phillips and a few others years to lobby support and raise enough money to get the $1.2 million dollar Equestrian Center built.

"It's not just going to benefit the horse people, it's going to benefit everybody" said Phillips.

The June Ates Arena is not just for barrel racing and rodeos.  The facilities are hurricane proof, and can be used for disaster recovery.

Since the arena can be used for a whole host of events from car shows to music concerts, it has a ton of potential to boost the local economy.

"It really places Milton and Santa Rosa County on the map, and certainly sets the stage for future opportunities moving forward to get bigger and bigger" said Jason Kimbrell, Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce.

Michael Otero has traveled the country for Calf Roping competitions.  He says local audiences are in for a treat.

"It's different to see things on TV, but when you see it live in action just feet to inches in front of you, it really makes a different impact" said Michael Otero, Calf Roper.

"It's a dream come true, it really is" said Phillips.