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Professionals’ Comments Reinforce Stadium Jumping, Inc. Search for New, Modern Show Facility

Wellington, FL – December 22, 2006 – The Village of Wellington, in Palm Beach County has benefited substantially from a flourishing economic climate since the arrival in 1979 of the Winter Equestrian Festival, brainchild of Stadium Jumping, Inc’s Eugene Mische. The huge annual influx of foreign riders and visitors – to say nothing of some 5,000 horses – to this area from January to March has raised the status of Wellington as an equestrian destination to a level to which many other towns can only aspire.

Despite its exponential growth, the Winter Equestrian Festival, within its current land footprint, has been unable to sufficiently expand its facilities in order to accommodate the increasing demands of world-class riders and horses. Anxieties among riders, owners and trainers in terms of training and stabling facilities have naturally been at the forefront of recent discussions with regard to the possible relocation of the show ground, and while opinions may differ when discussing the logistics of such a move, one view is unequivocal – that the show should remain in Wellington.

With that in mind, the Stadium Jumping Board of Directors has authorized a search committee to move forward in an effort to locate potential new show grounds locations.

George Morris, an Olympic veteran of U.S. show jumping and now Chef d’Equipe of the United States Equestrian Show Jumping team: “For obvious reasons this has become not only an American mecca but a worldwide mecca for jumpers, hunters, dressage horses that we didn’t foresee years ago. While I love this facility, it’s closed in on itself. It’s now very limiting and doesn’t have the facilities to be able to work horses properly, so it’s perhaps outlived its position. The location is great, but it’s going to be too small to accommodate what we have today. We now need a state-of-the-art facility to accommodate world-class events.”

Veteran international show jumper and Olympic Gold Medalist Joe Fargis: “The existing show ground has become obsolete. It’s way too small and just like any airport, it needs enlarging and refurbishing, and I don’t think there’s any way to make it larger at the present location. It would be great if we could move to a new facility in the area because we’ve definitely outgrown this one.”

Ronnie Beard, a hunter/jumper judge with a 35-year history in equestrian sport: “I feel that it’s time in this country to have a world-class facility. When these grounds were originally built it was the best to be offered, but in this country we have never come up to the standards of having a Spruce Meadows-type facility and I believe, having been on these grounds for so many years, that we have learned a lot where we could now make big improvements, especially with traffic control and proximity of stabling to the rings. I think the idea of building a facility that will one day encompass full international events, and maybe possibly an indoor arena that might host World Cup events would be great for the area and this country.”

Leo Conroy, a Wellington resident, a USEF judge, and manager of Monmouth County Horse Show: “It’s obvious that we have outgrown the current site by virtue of having some classes move to the Littlewood show ground. Furthermore, a case can be made that the current show grounds are in the wrong place in the village [Wellington]. The commercial zone has come closer and it’s becoming dangerous for people to get across Pierson Road, and an opportunity now exists to build a world-class facility in a different part of Wellington, and we want to see a great show ground.”

Jessica Newman, Executive Director of JustWorld International, a not-for-profit organization partnered with the Global Champions Tour whose series opens annually at the Winter Equestrian Festival: “Basically, the Winter Equestrian Festival has become the biggest show jumping tournament in the world and grown beyond what it was originally intended for, therefore, the infrastructure is not able to professionally accommodate the amount of horses and people that it has now. Building a new facility would enable us to stay ahead of the times, and as there are so many people who have invested so much in the area, it’s important that it [WEF] remains in Wellington on a viable basis so we can continue to have a world-class facility.”

Local horseman, trainer and landowner, Jay Matter: “The concept of a new or expanded facility has got me quite excited. Obviously, as a landowner, my desire is for it to stay right here in Wellington. We need a facility that is for the horses and the horse people, and that is workable and accommodating to the owners, riders and trainers, etc. I would love to see a situation where the facility can be used to promote the sport of show jumping to the public. The shows here have proven that there is a market for this. It is an opportune time to promote corporate sponsorship along with a paying gate to alleviate some of the expense away from the exhibitor.”

Cognizant of the strong wave of opinion with regard to retaining a world-class facility, Stadium Jumping, Inc., will continue its on-going search to identify possible sites for a new world class competition site.

PHOTO CREDIT: Golf carts are just one of the many hazards on the crowded show grounds during a typical competition during the Winter Equestrian Festival. Photo by Kenneth Kraus/PhelpsSports.com

 

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