WELLSVILLE, Utah (AP) -- Utah State University has opened its new indoor arena, stables and classrooms at its Equine Education Center in Wellsville.

College of Agriculture Dean Noelle Cockett hailed the complex on Wednesday as an icon for agriculture and the rural way of life.

Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences department head Ken White said he believes completion of the 26-acre facility just off Highway 89 will draw more horse lovers to USU.

"Our facilities kind of limited the number of students we could have, but certainly the creation of this facility has taken care of that issue overnight," White said.

About 60 students are currently enrolled in equine science and management studies, up from just 26 students in 2007, White said. The program is the only one of its kind in Utah.

Youth in the statewide 4-H program will also benefit, taking riding lessons at the new center, particularly during the winter when an indoor arena is crucial, White said.

The Herald-Journal of Logan reports that the equine center facilities include a large indoor arena, covered hay shed and stables, classrooms, offices, student quarters and an outdoor arena. Additional stables are planned once additional funding is secured.

Funding for the $2.9 million first phase of construction came from state and private sources. The ALSAM Foundation, named in honor of supermarket magnates Aline and Sam Skaggs, provided $400,000.

Construction of the center began in October and ended in August. The facility got rave reviews from the roughly 200 people who attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house on Wednesday.

"The old place was nothing compared to this," said Courtney Buchanan, a Massachusetts native and a sophomore who moved to Logan to enroll in the USU program. "I think this is great for the program."

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Information from: The Herald Journal, http://www.hjnews.com

Copyright 2010 The AP.

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