Construction Starts on Palm Beach’s Global Dressage Festival Grounds

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The original heart of Wellington's winter polo circuit being readied for new dressage show grounds. The polo scoreboard, battered from hurricanes and time, is in the background. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, May 20–The polo field where Princess Diana watched Prince Charles kick start Florida’s now world famous winter horse circuit a quarter century ago, was torn up by a bulldozer Friday as construction began of new showgrounds to host a Global Dressage Festival beginning in 2012.

The dressage grounds are part of the sprawling Palm Beach International Equestrian Center that already includes 12 competition arenas including a centerpiece International Arena with stadium lighting and draws thousands of riders from around the world for 12 weeks of the Winter Equestrian Festival.

Six dressage arenas, including a showcase stadium with a VIP club and covered spectator seating as well as a covered ring, will be built on the site using the footing created by Belgium’s Bart Poels and dyed a distinctive coral color used in the hunter-jumper rings at the main competition grounds a few hundred yards (meters) away. Permanent stabling is also planned.

The dressage complex, an adjoining grass jumping derby field and a planned 100-unit condominium hotel and permanent shopping plaza on the 50 acres of the old Palm Beach Polo Stadium are an $80 million (€56.5 million) Phase II of PBIEC development. The first phase was a $25 million (€17.6 million) rebuilding of the main show grounds.

The goal is to build horse show grounds, a hotel and retail plaza that rank with the finest in the world and create a Palm Beach lifestyle destination.

Bulldozer tearing up polo field while a spectator stand, in background, is dismantled to make way for a new dressage complex. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Equestrian Sport Productions that manages the show grounds for Wellington Equestrian Partners that owns several hundred acres of real estate within the community’s equestrian preserve has promised to have the new dressage complex ready for shows by December and to host international competitions next winter.

The organizers announced plans for the new facility less than three months ago and the formal ground breaking ceremony was held earlier this month after approvals were issued by local government agencies for construction to begin and to use the grounds for horse shows.

ESP has applied to host two World Cup qualifying events and other CDIs at PBIEC during the 2012 winter circuit, and expect to seek to locate the events at the new facility.

Even before the start of work at the new show grounds, 10 individuals and families committed to become founding sponsors, three at $50,000 and seven at $25,000 (€35,300-€17,600) each.

Most dressage competitions in the Palm Beach area have been held at the taxpayer-owned Jim Brandon Center in West Palm Beach and at Equestrian Estates in neighboring Loxahatchee.

Fencing being erected around the new dressage facility to prevent silt draining into canals during construction. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Dressage-news.com will provide regular reports on the new facility.