Rolex Sponsors Palm Beach Dressage & Jumper Shows; Hotel, Retail Proposal for Show Grounds Clears Another Hurdle
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Jan. 4–Rolex has become a sponsor of the 2012 Winter Equestrian Festival and the Global Dressage Festival, the premier dressage and jumper/hunter events at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center which has become the world’s leading winter horse show destination.
The announcement Wednesday by Equestrian Sport Productions that manages competitions at PBIEC came before a crucial early Thursday morning vote by the Village of Wellington Planning and Zoning Board approving plans to build a five-story, 100-unit condominium hotel and retail plaza on the new dressage grounds that are part of the PBIEC complex.
Earlier Wednesday, Kimberly Jacobs, a member of the family strongly opposed to commercial development on the dressage facility announced she had filed a lawsuit seeking to “slow down” development of the project, claiming that the nearby Deerridge Farm compound could be flooded by runoff from the dressage grounds.
Rolex, one of the world’s top tier luxury brands that sponsors selected high profile events, will serve as the “Official Timepiece” of PBIEC comprising the show grounds for the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival that launches its 12-week circuit next week and the Global Dressage Festival Stadium show grounds where the first international competition is scheduled for the first week of February.
“We are honored to partner with one of the world’s greatest brands,” Mark Bellissimo, Chief Executive Officer of ESP said. “We look forward to a long and successful relationship with Rolex.”
Multiple permanent specially branded Rolex clock towers, famous around the world for their impeccable timing and classic look, will be placed in prominent positions at the WEF and GDF show grounds.
Rolex is the sponsor of the International Equestrian Federation jumper rankings and the leading rider each month wears a distinctive Rolex arm band designating them the top rider, and the World Equestrian Festival CHIO at Aachen. Germany.
During the Planning and Zoning Board hearing whose recommendation supporting the hotel and retail elements of the dressage show grounds goes to the full Village council for a vote in late January, several hundred supporters and opponents turned out to hear impassioned pleas for and against the project.
A grass derby jumper field and the new GDF grounds are set on 96 acres (39 Ha.) that was the Palm Beach Polo Club grounds where Britain’s Prince Charles played polo a quarter century ago watched by his then-wife Princess Diana along with thousands of spectators at what was the heart of equestrian activity in Wellington, now grown to a city of 55,000 people 15 miles inland from fabled Palm Beach.
Wellington Equestrian Partners, also headed up by Mark Bellissimo and which owns the show grounds and about 200 acres (81 Ha.) of other real estate in Wellington, have drawn up plans to build a resort condominium hotel and equestrian-themed retail promenade on the dressage site at a cost the group estimated at $50-$80 million (€38-62 million).
Mark Bellissimo said although reservations for the one, two and three-bedroom condominiums are not yet being formally accepted, 40 to 50 “reservations” have been received by ESP.
He said that if the project is approved by the Village of Wellington, endorsed by the Florida state legislature in Tallahassee and then returned for final approval, work on the hotel and retail elements could begin at the end of 2012 and completed 18 to 24 months later.
The meeting in the Village hall began at 7 p.m. and went until 1:30 a.m.
Among the hundreds of attendees were Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa who rides the horses for Hunter Harrison’s Double H Farm who is a partner in WEP; McLain Ward, double Olympic U.S. team gold medalist; U.S. Olympic jumper rider Nona Garson and Robert Dover, six-time Olympic team dressage rider for the U.S. who has mustered support for the dressage project that he says fulfills his “dream” of a world class facility that will attract the top riders from Europe.
The seven-member planning and zoning board was the second filter for the project–the first was an equestrian preserve committee that unanimously recommended the project.
The board early Thursday morning voted five in favor and two against the hotel and retail elements.
Just hours before the meeting, Kimberly Jacobs, the wife of Boston Bruins and Delaware North Companies principal Charlie Jacobs, announced she had filed a lawsuit seeking to “slow down” work on the dressage grounds.
She said she filed the lawsuit one month before the first scheduled international competition because she wants to slow down the project until she gets assurances her family’s Deerridge Farm compound will not be flooded by runoff from the new dressage facility.
The GDF grounds are located several hundred yards (meters) across a canal and two-lane Pierson Road from Deerride Farm, one of the largest estates in Wellington. The Jacobs family owns the Delaware North Companies, one of the largest privately owned corporations in the world in hospitality, gaming, dog and horse tracks and other ventures in the Americas, Australia/New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
More than $6 million (€4.6 million) is being spent at the GDF grounds building four outdoor arenas, 200 permanent stalls, a 210 ft. by 360 ft. (64m x 110m) covered arena and huge drainage infrastructure in time for the first competition at the beginning of February. The project received all permits required by multiple government agencies, including the Village of Wellington and the South Florida Water Management District.
Thw lawsuit is not expected to interrupt construction that will be completed by the time the U.S. Equestrian Federation schedules an inspection the week before the first CDI in February.
Dressage competition at GDF includes five CDIs, including two World Cup events each with $50,000 in purses, a CDI5* with $125,000 in prize money and the first non-championship dressage Nations Cup.
The competition and warmup arenas are being constucted by Brett Raflowitz’s Equestrian Services International in partnership with Bart Poels of Belgium who provided the surface for the 2008 Olympic equestrian venue in Hong Kong. The partners have been enlisted to provide footing for the 2012 London Games and installed all 12 jumper/hunter arenas at PBIEC, the Devon Horse Show grounds in Pennsylvania and dozens of other competition and private arenas throughout the Americas, Europe and the Middle East.