Palm Beach International Equestrian Center to Bid for 2018 WEG
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Mar. 13–Palm Beach International Equestrian Center that stages the world’s largest and longest running horse show announced Saturday that it will bid for the 2018 World Equestrian Games.
The bid for one of the world’s largest sporting events that is held every four years will be made by Equestrian Sport Productions (ESP).
ESP owns and operates the 150-acre (60ha) PBIEC show grounds whose centerpiece event is the Winter Equestrian Festival that draws more than 2,000 horses from more than 30 countries during each of its 12 weeks.
Michael Stone, former secretary general of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) and current president of ESP, will head up the Palm Beach organizing committee. He has been involved in every WEG since the inaugural event in Stockholm in 1990.
Work on the formal application will begin this year to insure completion well before the deadline of 2013 for the naming of the WEG in 2018.
The World Equestrian Games this year will be held in Lexington, Kentucky, beginning in late September. The 2014 WEG has been awarded to Deauville, France.
Michael Stone said that more than $20 million (€14.5 million) has been spent in the past 2 1/2 years upgrading PBIEC to provide the best facilities and best footing of any horse show in the United States. Additional temporary stadium seating and a covered arena would most likely also be required.
ESP said that no outside financing would be needed to stage WEG at Palm Beach.
The operations and additional capital improvements could be funded from ongoing operations, sponsorship and wealthy individuals who make up Wellington Equestrian Partners that is the owner of the PBIEC and extensive land holdings around the show grounds.
ESP compared its prospective bid with that of Aachen, Germany, which in 2006 hosted the most successful WEG so far. The 16 days of dressage, jumping, eventing, driving, endurance, vaulting and reining in which 852 horses and 773 athletes from 61 countries participated at Aachen was attended by 570,000 visitors and reported by more than 1,200 media representatives. The operations budget was $30.4 million.
The economic impact would be substantial for all of South Florida, according to past experience, three times greater than the $100 million resulting from golf’s Ryder Cup.
The WEG would be scheduled for October to minimize the risk of hurricanes and a time when tourism is light so there would be substantial numbers of hotel rooms available. Miami is also one of the two primary quarantine centers in the United States and the entry point for most of the foreign horses that currently compete at PBIEC.
Within the Village of Wellington are dozens of polo fields that would be available for parking of thousands of cars.
PBIEC is easily accessible by major highways and Palm Beach International Airport as well as major international airports at Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.