During a packed press conference on March 16 at the White Horse Tavern in Wellington, Fla., developer Mark Bellissimo and dressage legend Robert Dover announced plans for an ambitious new facility in Wellington that will cater specifically to the dressage community and further establish Wellington as the “equine destination of the world.”
Plans for the 57-acre parcel at the corner of Pierson and South Shore, where the underused derby field known as The Stadium currently lies, include six dressage arenas, 400 permanent stalls, spectator seating for thousands and an upscale hotel, condo and shopping development.
“My lifelong dream is that Wellington would become the epicenter of the dressage world,” said Dover, a six-time Olympian. “I’ve spent half my adult life in Germany and other countries because the game is being played there. We want to bring it here with a world-class series that will attract the best in the world. There’s nothing like going to summer camp in the winter.”
Standing in front of architectural renderings of the unnamed facility, Bellissimo, Managing Partner of Wellington Equestrian Partners and CEO of Equestrian Sport Productions, compared the plans to the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, which three years ago underwent a significant revamp catering to the hunter/jumper crowd.
Since its expansion, the PBIEC has experienced a 400 percent gain in spectator revenue, and its feature show jumping events draw crowds of up to 8,000, attested Bellissimo. With Bellissimo’s ESP behind the construction of a new dressage facility, the plan is to apply the same expansion strategy to dressage.
“At Equestrian Sport Productions we say: Dream big or go home,” said Bellissimo. “There’s an opportunity for us to really dream big about this.”
The sport of dressage needs more prize money and bigger classes, added Dover, and the United States needs a world-class venue with the capability to support more five-star rated CDIs such as the World Dressage Masters, a dressage Nations Cup and even a World Cup Final. Plans for The Stadium also include an indoor arena that will be capable of hosting a Final, and a “Rockefeller Center-like shopping area that would be a centerpiece of the equestrian community,” said Bellissimo.
Although the facility is still in the planning stages, Bellissimo and Dover’s goal of generating interest in the venture was successful. As Bellissimo spoke, members of the audience were texting him with $50,000 and $25,000 promises of support.
Safe horse crossings, parking limitations and stall numbers were all brought up as concerns, as well as the desire for amateur and junior-specific competition series.
Ground breaking is optimistically set for fall 2011, with the possibility of the first show series in early 2012. Dover and Bellissimo were adamant that the new facility was not meant to replace nearby dressage show venues at Jim Brandon Equestrian Center and in Loxahatchee, but rather to boost the area’s dressage reach.
“Our goal is to get people excited about this venue and the series of competitions,” added Bellissimo. “What we have here is a perfect storm situation, with all the pieces to create a truly successful dressage destination for world class riders.”