Gound Breaking for New Florida Dressage Venue

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Ground breaking for new dressage facility at Florida's Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Village of Wellington Councilwoman Anne Gerwig, Mayor Darell Bowen, Mark Bellissimo, chief executive of Equestrian Sport Productions and Wellington Equestrian Partners, and Robert Dover, six-time Olympian. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, May 10–Work began Tuesday on a new world class dressage complex that the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center organizers plan to be a “jewel of global horse shows” ready for competitions by next winter.

About 100 supporters including several of the 10 founding sponsors turned out for the ground breaking at the 56-acre (22.6 ha) site that is on the site of Wellington’s original equestrian facility, Palm Beach Polo Club Fields 1 and 2 where Britain’s Prince Charles played while Princess Di looked on.

The dressage facility will include a stadium with VIP area and seating for thousands of spectators of at least six dressage arenas with footing identical to that installed at the adjoining hunter/jumper grounds by Bart Poels of Belgium.

Village of Wellington Councilwoman Anne Gerwig, Mayor Darell Bowen, Mark Bellissimo, chief executive of Equestrian Sport Productions and Wellington Equestrian Partners (WEP), and Robert Dover, six-time Olympian, participated in the official ground-breaking ceremony.

WEP has spent about $200 million (€140 million) acquiring real estate including the main PBIEC show grounds and plans to build a condominium hotel and a shopping plaza on the same site as the dressage complex and an existing grass jumping derby field.

“We believe this dressage facility will provide a sense of community similar to that for hunters and jumpers,” Mark Bellissimo said of the competitions at the main PBIEC grounds where the Winter Equestrian Festival of 12 weeks draws between 2,000 and 3,000 horses per week from around the world to compete for more than $6 million (€4.2 million) in prize money.

“Our goal,” he said, “is to create something great, not just for Wellington and the U.S. but for dressage around the world.”

Bulldozer removing the long established grass polo field to launch construction of a new dressage venue. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The entire project will not be built overnight, he said, but much of the dressage phase of six arenas, including a centerpiece stadium and a covered arena will be completed by December to host an inaugural competition to kick off a winter circuit. Organizers have applied for licenses to host several international competitions.

Among those participating were founding sponsors WEP partner Kim Boyer of Fruitport, Michigan and Wellington, Arlene”Tuny” Page of Wellington, Terri Kane of Diamante Farms who flew in from Texas for the occasion, Ilse Schwarz representing Gaye and Joe Scarpa of Wellington, and Matt Varney, Rob and Chris Desino of Wellington Equestrian Realty.

Olympic and World Equestrian Games riders Robert Dover, Lisa Wilcox, Michelle Gibson and Oded Shimoni with Mark Bellissimo at the ground breaking ceremony. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com