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A Month to WEF & Stabling Almost Sold Out

WELLINGTON, Fla. Dec. 19--With one month to go before the start of the newly expanded Winter Equestrian Festival into the world's largest and richest horse show, virtually all on-ground stabling has been sold out.

Of 2,800 permanent and tent stalls at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC), fewer than 150 stalls--50 permanent and fewer than 100 tent stalls--were uncommitted as of Sunday, a month from the kickoff of WEF on Jan. 16. It runs through April 6.

"We're overwhelmed with the tremendous vote of confidence in our efforts to create an equestrian events center that is unsurpassed in quality of competition and as a major winter destination for horse lovers from around the world," said Mark Bellissimo, Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC (ESP) Managing Partner.

"We will provide more stabling to meet demand." ESP will produce 12 weeks of hunter/jumper and dressage competitions in a horse show corridor created by the purchase of the old Palm Beach Polo Stadium, Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club and Littlewood Farm.

Among the highlights are three World Cup jumping qualifiers, a Nations Cup and five Olympic jumping selection trials, an international jumping Challenge Series including a speed derby and a six-bar competition, and a dressage CDI 3*.

"The Top Ten North America versus Europe Challenge and high performance six-bar and speed derby classes are being introduced to add excitement and glamor and attract spectators." Bellissimo said.

ESP did not officially take over the Wellington show grounds and management of the U.S. Equestrian Federation licenses for the horse shows until the end of last week, but work began immediately the National Horse Show ended the previous Sunday.

ESP is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wellington Equestrian Partners, LLC which invested $135 million in land acquisitions and plans to spend millions more over the next year in improvements.

The changes to be completed by WEF opening day include:

- Converting the Internationale Arena into a 360 ft. by 280 ft. all-weather ring from a grass surface;

-Upgrading of at least three other competition arenas;

-Major upgrades to spectator area including a reserved seating plan for 2008 WEF to be announced soon;

-A newly created ring road around the show grounds to handle the many hundreds of golf carts and other vehicles;

-New outdoor paved coffee, food and wine bars, extensive landscaping and expanded vendor areas.

Two innovations are designed to help exhibitors, owners, and visitors find their way around PBIEC's 15 competition arenas: a ShowGrounds Live wireless electronic service of all events going on in all rings and strategically located You Are Here guides.

State of the art lighting has been ordered to enable night classes. Portable bathrooms with diaper changing facilities and hand basins will replace most of the old style port-a-potties.

"We're working around the clock," Bellissimo said. "Everyone is working extremely hard to make sure we're ready for opening day.

"Then, of course, the real work begins, to take care of the horses, riders, spectators, vendors and service providers who are all vital to the success of a show we are convinced will be a world class equestrian center to benefit everyone, equestrians and non-equestrians, in and around our home in Wellington."

Photo: Heavy equipment readying Palm Beach International Equestrian Center's Internationale Arena for all-weather footing and creating new spectator areas.


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