Wellington Government Approves Creation of Golf Community on Global Dressage Festival Show Grounds

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Global Dressage Festival grounds in Wellington, Florida with grass derby field for jumper, hunter competitions. File photo. © Ken Braddick/DRESSAGE-NEWS.com

WELLINGTON, Florida, Feb. 7, 2024–The Wellington government Wednesday night approved creation of a golf community on the Global Dressage Festival show grounds for the past 12 years and permit moving dressage to a yet-to-be developed area adjacent to the Winter Equestrian Festival.

The vote meant approving construction of high end houses on 96 acres of land that would be removed from an equestrian preservation zone of 9,000 acres restricting use to equestrian activities that has made Wellington a unique horse community, focused on hunters, jumpers, dressage and polo though polo was not impacted by the last actions.

The final 4-1 decision by the five-member Village of Wellington council came after months of public hearings with strong emotions on both sides.

Under the approved deal, construction of the housing community and a private golf course in place of Global cannot begin until the new show grounds are completed and ready to operate. The plans include more than 200 permanent stables and a grass derby field as well as several dressage arenas.

The developer agreed to a demand that if there are issues developing new show grounds focused on dressage there must be a covenant guaranteeing the new site cannot be used for any purpose other than horse shows for 50 years, similar to a covenant applying to the existing WEF facility.

All parties agreed on maintaining Wellington as the so-called “Horse Capital of the World,” a claim that is also made by World Equestrian Center built at a cost of more than $1 billion in Ocala about 244 miles/393 km north of Wellington.

Both WEF and Global stage 12 weeks of high end dressage and huter-jumper sports throughout winter with the Global grounds also used extensively the rest of the years for hunter-jumpers events.

The developers of the golf community made it clear they have no interest in a last-minute bid by a group of equestrians offering $25 million to buy the current Global land and refurbishing it as an equestrian competition venue. The group as well as others have indicated a lawsuit to block the deal may be considered.

Meantime, bids have been invited to buy the so-called WEF facility that was renamed Wellington International when it was bought by a European hedge fund in 2021 but is reported to have no money to maintain the show grounds.