Tryon International Equestrian Center is pursuing a bid for a global event that could have an economic impact of more than $200 million to both North and South Carolina. Both NC Governor McCrory and SC Governor Haley are endorsing the bid.
Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of Tryon Equestrian Partners, confirmed today that the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) in Mill Spring, NC is working with United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) to ensure that the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) remain in North America and USEF has communicated its support of the initiative to the FEI for the 2018 WEG.
The WEG, which is administered by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the worldwide governing body of equestrian sport, occurs every four years in the middle of the Olympic cycle and is the major international championship event for Jumping, Dressage and Para-Equestrian Dressage, Eventing, Driving, Endurance, Vaulting and Reining. The Bromont venue, located in Canada, which had been awarded the 2018 games, announced last week that they were withdrawing from their hosting arrangement with the FEI.
The United States Equestrian Federation has communicated via letter to the FEI their strong support of the bid to host the 2018 Games in North Carolina. William Moroney, Chief Executive Officer of USEF commented, “While it is unfortunate the games will not be able to take place at Bromont, the USEF believes it is critical that the WEG remain in North America as intended so that the globalization of the sport can continue.” USEF President, Chrystine Tauber added “Mark Bellissimo and Tryon Equestrian Partners have a brand new venue, deep experience and sufficient resources to make this happen. They have the USEF’s full endorsement.”
Both NC and SC state and local governments have expressed support of the bid. The last WEG in North America was held in Lexington, Kentucky in 2010. The games had an economic impact of $201.5 million over the event’s 14 days according to a financial study commissioned by the state.
“North Carolina’s infrastructure and natural beauty make our state a natural fit to host the 2018 World Equestrian Games,” said Governor McCrory. “We will support efforts to host the Games in our state which will provide not only a positive experience to all those attending, but a significant boost to North Carolina’s rapidly growing economy.”
S.C. Governor Haley echoed support for the WEG. “We have a long and rich history in equestrian competition, and welcome the opportunity to showcase our state’s world-renowned hospitality and tourism assets to the attendees and participants of this prestigious event,” said Governor Haley.
Tryon Equestrian Partners (TEP) has invested over $125 million dollars over the last two years developing 1,500 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to create what they believe to be the premier equestrian lifestyle destination and resort in the world. The Tryon International Equestrian Center is the centerpiece of that effort. This venue includes 1,200 permanent stalls, 12 competition arenas, a lighted international arena that seats 6,000 (expandable to 12,000) with multiple VIP areas, a large covered/indoor arena that seats 5,000, as well a world-class cross country course which will support both Eventing and Driving. TIEC is nestled within North Carolina horse country which is accessible to hundreds of miles of equestrian trails to support Endurance.
Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) is strategically located between Charlotte, NC, Asheville NC, and Greenville/Spartanburg SC. Asheville and Greenville GSP airports are within 35 minutes from the venue and Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is approximately one hour from the venue.
Mark Bellissimo, TEP managing partner, commented, “Our partnership built the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) to support all levels and disciplines of equestrian sport including international competitions and championships. Our partnership’s passion for equestrian sport is based on our belief that we can grow the sport in the Americas, and that this country needs a comprehensive high-profile, high-quality destination to showcase all equestrian disciplines to an expanding spectator base.”
Bellissimo presides over an organization, with over 150 full-time staff and 1,000 part-time staff, that operates more FEI competitions than any other organizer in the world with 38 weeks of CDI and CSI events through four venues (Wellington, Tryon, Colorado, and Central Park) that includes 6 CSI 5*, 1 CSIO 4*, 1 CDIO 4*, 4 CDI W’s, 1 CDI 5*, 2 CPEDI, as well as the multi-discipline North American Junior Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC). The collective organizations own and operate three of the largest facilities and some of the most prominent events in the world: The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, Fla., which hosts the Winter Equestrian Festival and the Global Dressage Festival, which in their peak week will have more than 3,500 horses competing within the 12-week winter circuit; The Colorado Horse Park which just hosted the NAJYRC; and the Tryon International Equestrian Center venue which hosts 10 FEI weeks. The TIEC venue will be hosting the American Eventing Championships in September 2016 which will have over 600 entries.
On the commercial side, Bellissimo believes its portfolio of 130 sponsors is one of the strongest in the industry. Many sponsors have already expressed encouragement and interest in the WEG event since Bromont’s withdrawal as host of the 2018 games. In addition to Bellissimo, the organizing committee would include Michael Stone, President of Equestrian Sport Productions and former Secretary General of the FEI, who has been involved in the WEG process for all events since the inaugural games in 1990 (with the exception of the 2014 Normandy WEG games); Sharon Decker, Chief Operating Officer of Tryon International Equestrian Center and former Secretary of Commerce for the State of North Carolina would lead the efforts on behalf of the TIEC facility, and Jim Wolf, former USEF Chef de Mission, whose 20-year tenure with USEF provided various experiences and responsibilities in U.S. WEG and Olympic team efforts.
Bellissimo further commented, “The WEG is a very challenging and complicated event. With the exception of Aachen, Germany, most venues are forced to spend many years and tens of millions of dollars investing and developing the venue infrastructure, developing the personnel, attracting sponsors, and managing logistics for the WEG. This takes a financial and operational toll by consuming scarce resources on the venue construction and team building efforts for a one-time event. We have a fully functional equestrian venue, the management team and operational staff, and the sponsor pipeline in place, so the bulk of our energy will be on operational execution and showcasing the event and the sport to the world.”
Bellissimo added, “We are uniquely and immediately positioned to hold all eight disciplines within a central venue. Further, our integrated approach to existing on-site lodging, restaurants, permanent VIP hospitality venues, and abundance of on-site and local area family activities would be attractive for vendors, sponsors, competitors, horse owners, and spectators. In addition, there are 60,000 hotel beds within 60 miles of the venue. We are confident that these elements would create a very successful games and re-energize the WEG product.”
About The FEI World Equestrian Games. The modern WEG runs over two weeks and, like the Olympics, the location rotates to different parts of the world. At the 2010 Games, 57 countries were represented by 800 people and their horses. The inaugural FEI World Equestrian Games™ were hosted in Stockholm (SWE) in 1990. Since then the Games have been staged in The Hague (NED) in 1994, Rome (ITA) in 1998, Jerez (ESP) in 2002, and Aachen (GER) in 2006. The first Games to be organized outside Europe were the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky (USA) 2010. The Games came back to Europe for the 2014 edition of the FEI World Equestrian Games™, which was held in Normandy (FRA).