Omaha: Host of 2017 World Cup Finals of Dressage & Jumping–Part 1 of 2
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May 9, 2016
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
When the World Cup Finals of dressage and jumping are staged in this Midwestern city for the first time in 2017, steak lovers and beer drinkers will be well catered with the competition arena, hotels and restaurants all within walking distance. Vegans not so much in a city that once had the world’s largest stockyard.
One thing’s for sure, all can count on a heartfelt welcome and a determination to make sure everything works as well if not better than anywhere else for the Finals Mar. 27-April 2. The slogan: “Visit Nebraska, Visit Nice,” sums up the attitude of the white-collar city that has prospered from the headquarters of several major corporations including Berkshire Hathaway, controlled by Warren Buffet who personal wealth is $67/€59 billion.
For dressage there will be of 18 riders and horses—12 from Europe including the title defender; two from North America, one from the Pacific and three others. More than 40 combinations will participate in the jumping final.
Some tickets have already gone on sale–all-session packages for both dressage and jumping ranging in price from $145/€127 to $265/€215 depending on location of seats. Tickets are available at http://www.internationalomaha.com.
“With so much interest in ticket sales already, we anticipate that the all-session tickets will sell quickly,” said Lisa Roskens, chair of the Omaha Equestrian Foundation that’s staging the dual finals and a management dynamo. “We are really looking forward to welcoming the world’s best horses, riders and fans from around the world to Omaha next year for what we are committed to making the best FEI World Cup™ Finals ever held.”
Unlike many European equestrian venues, or even Las Vegas, the spacious CenturyLink Center where the World Cups will be staged is smack bang in the heart of this city of about 450,000 people. Thousands of rooms in hotels are within walking distance on sreets that are broad and clean, traffic sparse and drivers like everyone else extraordinarily polite.
Weather can sometimes be brutal in the Midwest in winter but according to historic records the average temperatures is about 60F/15C over the same period as the Finals. Most hotels really are only about a block away and the show’s official hostelry, the Hilton, is literally across the street and connected by an enclosed skyway.
What participants list as among the most important and fans and critics will flood social media with their opinions are the basics:
—Horses will be shipped from Europe and select points in the United States by The Dutta Corp. that is arranging flights directly to the Omaha Airport and quarantine stabling at the venue just 10 minutes away, closer than any previous World Cup Final.
—Stables within CenturyLink are pretty much the same as most temporary stalls at horse shows
—The competition arena is a college basketball stadium much like—but about four yards/meters narrower but markedly longer—than the Thomas & Mack arena in Las Vegas that hosted the dual World Cup Finals in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2015. Dressage competitors have room to ride around the arena before the bell rings, not always the case at indoor venues such as Las Vegas.
—The warmup arena is the generous size of some other World Cup venues, like ’s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands or Lyon, France.
—Footing in both the competition and warmup arenas is the same proven surface installed at the Global Dressage and Winter Equestrian Festivals in Wellington, Florida, the state-of-the-art Tryon, North Carolina show grounds and Central Park Horse Show in New York.
All of the dressage participants had high praise for the show, and singled out the the smooth competition operations—the same team that manages Florida’s Global circuit, Tryon and many other events in the United States.
“I want to thank Lisa Roskens who had the vision for the World Cup coming here and for this event,” said Karen Pavicic who won both the CDI4* Grand Prix and Freestyle on Don Daiquiri, the horse she competed for Canada at the 2014 World Games. “They’ve really done a fantastic job and I look forward to the World Cup next year because it’s going to be incredible. The atmosphere was electric and the venue is outstanding. Omaha is such a friendly, welcoming city and I have no doubt that the World Cup next year is going to be an incredible event.”
No one disagreed with that assessment.
Surprisingly in a city that prides itself on quality food and dozens of excellent restaurants of many different types, the offerings at this event were disappointing with very limited choices such as $4.50 for a luke-warn aluminum foil-wrapped hot dog, $7.50 for a can of American beer. None of the quality espresso or wine bars often found at European shows and popping up at some U.S. grounds. The organizers promised food and drink services will be better in 2017.
There also won’t be the bright lights, glitter and dazzling array of world class entertainment and around the clock gambling that’s been a big draw for Las Vegas. Not everyone sees that as a negative.
Three casinos, tiny offshoots of Las Vegas behemoths, are a few minutes away on the Iowa side of the Missouri River 10 to 15 minutes by car from Omaha.
For those looking to do more than go to the Finals and eat in a different multi-star restaurant for lunch and dinner, there’s the Joslyn Art Museum with some works and exhibitions that are the envy of some big city centers. An historic train station restored as a museum–this is the home of the Union Pacific railroad featured in hundreds of Western movies.
And a zoo that has many unique features.
A day-long drive around Omaha saw some of the most amazing displays of life size bronzes—depicting facets of history from covered wagons and buffalo from frontier days to the magnificently restored Union train station with talking statues. Graffiti, often a scourge on structures in many European and American cities, was seen on one building, and that in keeping with its business catering to skate boarders and other extreme sports.
Part 2: Omaha, the 2017 World Cup City