Tryon–World Class, Built to Last, Everyone Welcome
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
MILL SPRING, North Carolina, June 8, 2015–Tryon International Equestrian Center is not just world class but in an amazing feat of construction in just one year a show grounds has been created that seems as solid and enduring as the Blue Ridge Mountains where it nestles in the foothills.
Formally opened after tens of millions of dollars building the show grounds to make it a destination, much remains to be completed that will eventually put the bill at about $100 million, all from private investors led by Mark Bellissimo the entrepreneur who took over the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida 10 years ago.
As new as it is, the 850 permanent stables that have been built are sold out for the 20 competition weeks–mostly jumpers but dressage starts this week. A dozen competition arenas with the same coral-colored Olympic quality footing which has become a signature feature of Wellington are already in use.
An arena capable of five full size dressage arenas is being completed for the first national dressage competition. Plans for CDIs next year will shift the major Grand Prix to the main George H. Morris stadium just 200 paces from the stable complex of 160 stalls next to the dressage arenas.
A covered arena that is one of the largest in the world and big enough for five full size (20 by 60 meters) has been constructed and will get a concrete base so that footing appropriate for different disciplines–dressage, jumping, vaulting, reining–can be used.
Final approvals will pave the way for construction of resort hotel and spa and golf course on the site.
Unlike Wellington’s local government with a majority elected by a massive injection of campaign funds from a single family that wants the Global Dressage grounds torn down, North Carolina’s Gov. Pat McCrory who opened the show grounds made it clear he saw his job as clearing away bureaucratic obstacles.
A video of the opening day ceremony.http://tryon.coth.com/article/video-of-lee-greenwood-and-the-special-forces-parachute-team-rock-the-tryon-opening-ceremonies
Wellington killed a horse show condominium hotel, an equine-themed boutique mall, even delayed for two years simple parking improvements and has otherwise succeeded in blocking improvements to the show grounds.
The lawsuit by the family that wants the Global Dressage Festival show grounds torn down is scheduled for court hearing in December.
Tryon is not Palm Beach International Equestrian Center that hosts the Global Dressage Festival as well as WEF over 12 weeks of winter that has become so popular it is bursting at the seams.
Nor is it the architecturally imposing structures of the Middle Eastern oil-funded projects that host relatively tiny specially staged events with a handful of spectators.
And it is not Aachen, to horse sports what Wimbledon is to tennis, with its century of tradition and an imposing 40,000-seat main stadium whose jumping Grand Prix is so revered it is almost akin to an Olympic gold medal.
Though the rows of permanent wooden vendor boutiques at Tryon, some with tables outside for patrons to share a cappuccino or a glass of wine, have a charm that’s lacking at the vendor villages elwehere.
In fact, one of most impressive aspects of Tryon is the sense of permanency–stonework throughout, stone brick walkways, solid polished wooden stables and buildings, heavy wooden cushioned chairs for spectators.
Several dozen houses–some as large as five bedrooms–add to the sense of a township unlike any other show grounds. More than 100 recreational vehicle sites are similar to European shows where live-in “lorries” (trucks) jam the parking lots.
A port-a-pottie could not be found, but permanent restrooms everywhere.
Tryon, though, has its drawbacks as the construction of the on-site homes indicates. A lack of hotels, restaurants and equestrian infrastructure such as veterinarians and farriers. International jumper rider Charlie Jayne echoed the “Field of Dreams” movie quote, “build it and they will come,” (inaccurately as the line was “If you build it and he will come,” referring to Shoeless Joe Jackson and other players of the Chicago White Sox baseball team that threw the 1919 World Series but you get the point.)
Charlotte International Airport is about 90 minutes away with direct flights to Europe and throughout North America. Ashevilla, Greenville and Spartanburg aiports are all within about 30 minutes of the show grounds.
It has some of the most useful and thoughtful touches seen at any show grounds–phone charging stations, rubber mats in all the stable aisles, rows of cafe style tables with umbrella canopies as protection from sun and rain in front of the stables. A show office more like a club house.
What is not needed is charm school. It seems that the first reaction from everyone whether at the members-only Legends Club or Roger’s Diner, a classic New Jersey style diner named for partner Roger Smith or simply looking lost is a smile and, “Can I help you?” This is not a programmed “Have a nice day” response but seems built in to the DNA of Southern charm and hospitality. In three days at Tryon, the only complaint heard was from a toddler bawling she didn’t want to wait in line for the free carousel ride.
Roger’s Diner, by the way, is popular not only with the show crowd but has become one of the most popular dining spots in the area.
The popularity of the diner says something else about the TIEC–it is a virtual self-sustaining city. Sleep, eat, compete, engage in all the social media, party–then start again the next day.