Full Speed Ahead for Florida’s Global Dressage Festival Grounds

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Earth moving equipment preparing the Global Dressage Festival grounds for the new Palm Beach International Equestrian Center complex. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNEH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Aug. 31–Construction of six dressage competition arenas is moving full speed ahead and a contract has been signed for fabrication of components for a covered arena and about 180 permanent horse stalls to be ready for the 2012 Global Dressage Festival at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.

Earth-moving equipment from Equestrian Services International, a company owned by Brett Raflowitz of Palm City, Florida, and Bart Poels of Belgium, this week began removing the grass field where Great Britain’s Prince Charles played polo watched by his then-wife Princess Diana almost a quarter-century ago.

Six dressage arenas–five outdoors and an oversize ring in the covered arena that will be big enough for three full size dressage rings–will be built with footing identical to the 12 jumper and hunter show rings at the main show grounds and identical to the equestrian arenas at the 2008 Olympics. The sand will be colored the iconic coral pink that has become the signature of the Palm Beach show grounds.

The Global Dressage Festival will be part of the Winter Equsetrian Festival, at 12 weeks the word’s largest and longest-running horse show. The new dressage complex is being constructed on 57 acres (23 Ha.) that were the original Palm Beach polo fields and sparked the development of Wellington as the globe’s major winter equestrian destination.

“Footing is our highest priority,” said Mark Bellissimo, chief executive of Equestrian Sport Productions that owns and operates the Wellington show grounds. “It has been since we took over the show grounds four years ago.

“The biggest investment we have made in rebuilding PBIEC to rank among the world’s top show grounds was in competition and warmup arenas using surfaces that are rated among the best in the world.

“We are providing dressage horses with the best from the very beginning of the Global Dressage Festival.”

Michael Stone, ESP President, said that ESP re-designed plans of the new facility to make it more user-friendly and attractive for competitors and spectators.

An outdoor stadium with spectator seating and overlooked by a VIP pavilion will be the centerpiece show arena while the covered arena, named the Van Kampen Arena and measuring 200 feet by 360 feet (61x110m), will be located across from the central competition arena.

Global Dressage Festival international competitions in 2012 include:

Feb. 2 – CDI-W, CDI3*, CDIY, CDIJ, CDIU25;

Feb. 16 – CDI-W, CDI3*, CDIY, CDIJ, CDIU25;

Mar. 15 – CDI3*, CDIY, CDIJ, CDIU25;

Mar. 29 – CDI5*, and

April 12 – CDIO3*, CDIY, CDIJ, CDIU25.

The CDIO will be the first non-championship Nations Cup in the Western Hemisphere.

Oganizers have applied for dates to hold national dressage competitions.

Brett Raflowitz of ESI said that construction of the arenas for the new dressage facility requires more than 5,000 tons of footing sand, 200 tons of textile products and more than 10,000 tons of drainage rock for the base.

“Bart and myself and our staff are very excited to be involved in providing the arenas for the new dressage facility,” Brett said. “We are honored to have been selected in expanding what is already the largest number of competition arenas with Olympic quality footing anywhere on the globe.”