A world-class horse facility with the prospect of bringing hundreds of millions of dollars into Sonoma County each year is perhaps closer to becoming a reality.

In August, the California Equestrian Park & Event Center (CEPEC, cepec.us) submitted a proposal to the state to develop land around the Sonoma Development Center in Eldridge.

The proposal is for about 750 of the facility’s 950 acres and would aim to eliminate the maintenance costs incurred by the state for land surrounding the SDC campus, provide the state with revenue from the property, and create many benefits for local and regional communities.

The campus, which houses the elderly and disabled, is targeted for closure under a proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown, which could happen by the end of 2018.

The property is zoned for nonprofit or governmental use only and, if accepted, the state could donate the land, lease it or CEPEC would buy it, said Wanda Smith, the nonprofit’s executive director.

CEPEC is a significant, multidimensional project. Plans call for an Olympic-­quality complex for competitive activities, recreational and educational opportunities, and entertainment including polo, cutting and barrel racing. A large equine infrastructure would be capable of handling 27,000 horses and 140 trainers, with 125 stables and veterinary facilities.

“It’s like a cultural and educational mosaic,” Smith said. “It’s a hybrid. Not really a park, and not private. Privately owned, but for the public. People from all over the world have looked at this and said it’s unique.”

In total, the center will cost about $200 million to build and is expected to create more than 1,200 jobs during construction and at least 70 full-time and 250 part-time jobs when up and running.

The world-class facility would have the potential to generate annual county tourism revenue of an estimated $250 million when fully operational, Smith said. This revenue would be derived from visitor spending on lodging, restaurants, transportation, retail goods, entertainment and recreation. An event as large as the World Equestrian Games would bring another $300 million.

“There’s nothing like it on the West Coast. It would be the biggest such facility west of Kentucky,” she said.

The horse industry is already big business here. In 2014, the Sonoma County Horse Council sponsored a study to determine the economic impact of equestrian activities in Sonoma County.

According to the report, conducted by the School of Business and Economics at Sonoma State University in 2013, the commercial interactions of Sonoma County’s horse owners, riders, and businesses generated in excess of $613 million in business revenues, compared to grapes, at $583 million (nearly $593 million in 2014). In addition it supports more than 7,700 jobs and contributes almost $12 million in local tax revenue annually from approximately $464 million in annual spending by horse owners and riders.

As of 2013, there were estimated to be more than 26,000 horses in the county and about 35 horse clubs that represent a wide variety of equine activities including trail riding, dressage and those catering to specific breeds.

“There is a wide variety of clubs, some more loosely formed than others, and some people belong to more than just one,” said Elizabeth Palmer, president of the Sonoma County Horse Association.

The report also included a survey of horse owners, who reported that the county lacks adequate facilities for larger shows.

“A lack of larger venues was considered to be a negative in locating a business here,” Palmer said. “People leave every weekend for shows elsewhere, including Sacramento and Las Vegas.”

Currently, the privately owned Sonoma Horse Park and Riverside Equestrian Center in Petaluma is the largest boarding and horse show facility in the county. It hosts seven shows a year, each bringing in hundreds of horses accompanied by their owners, trainers, family and other support personnel.

“As the horse industry grows, so will local tourism, local vendor income, and more focus on equine use of land and agricultural products. Those are the big ways in which CEPEC will have an operational impact,” said Robert Eyler, interim dean of SSU’s Extension and International programs, who led the study.

The idea for a large equestrian center had been kicked around for some time by the Sonoma Horse Council, but it needed a leader. The project began in earnest when the president of the organization got a look at Smith’s book “Horses of the Wine Country,” in which she illustrates the breadth and scope of the horse industry in Sonoma. Smith’s credentials include work with Silicon Valley startups, her own consulting business, the fact that she grew up with horses, has been a breeder and worked as a ranch manager at Korbel Winery.

CEPEC’s 65 board members include some of the best in the equine industry volunteering their services. Smith credits her team, composed of professionals from mainly local companies and organizations capable of designing and implementing the facility. In the five years it has been in operation, CEPEC has only spent $113,000 on moving the project forward. The architectural plans were donated, as was the business plan, and financial advisers tell them what they need to do next.

“I have so much help, it’s wonderful. It’s all sweat equity and a lot of people working hard,” Smith said. “People really think it’s a great idea.”

The organization has also conducted market research, focus groups and surveys, asking the community about its views on the project.

“It’s based on community input versus what a developer might present. Everyone thinks it’s cool,” Smith said.

CEPEC has progressed through a long list of project development steps and procedures toward its goal. According to the proposal submitted to the state, a preliminary site plan was included in the prepermit application was reviewed by the Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department in 2011. A CEPEC project update of plans for its location at the SDC was presented to the PRMD planning staff and its executive management earlier this year. As a result, the project plan includes mitigation measures to address issues such as traffic, noise, safety, lighting, dust, water usage and event size.

“We’re ready to go. We’ve done all the development work, we’re ready to rock and roll,” Smith said. “We’ve got a pretty good handle on it.”

The plan for the project also outlines various ways it will generate income, from events to club dues, rental facilities and riding fees. Large corporations — such as Stetson and John Deere — could also step in and purchase naming rights.

CEPEC revenue would also be obtained from facility rentals, admissions, retail sales, food and beverage sales, parking fees, fundraising, membership dues and advertisements, all expected to annually generate more than $13 million.

“We can attract so much business, we won’t be able to handle it all,” Smith said.

Another purpose of the project is to preserve open space and the rural and agricultural character of Sonoma County. The property in Eldrige is surrounded by 9,000 acres of protected open space and parks.

“We’re very ecologically minded. We can not only preserve the land, but can take care of it as well,” Smith said.

More activities are planned for the project, such as equestrian therapy venues for the disabled, including children and veterans, a history and educational element, hiking and horse-riding trails, and a campground for riders and their horses.

CEPEC would also partner with the Red Cross, providing an emergency shelter and services for people and livestock in case of an emergency.

CORRECTION: Oct. 19, 2015: CEPEC has not been through the preliminary planning phase with the county permit department. Incorrect information was provided for the original story.