Decision to Impact Real Estate and Future Plans for Wellington's Equestrian Community
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The Board of Directors of Stadium Jumping Inc., in a unanimous vote taken late yesterday, rejected a proposed tendered lease offer by Mark Bellissimo on behalf of the Wellington Equestrian Partners for the show grounds and facility at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club on Pierson Road in Wellington. At the same time, they have authorized their agents to move forward immediately in search of a viable alternative location for the show season beginning in 2009.
One of the world’s largest and most respected producers of equestrian events, Stadium Jumping, Inc., has produced the highly successful Winter Equestrian Festival since its inception in Wellington in 1979. The company also manages the National Horse Show and Family Festival, now in its fifth year at the same show grounds. Before the equestrian tour moved to Wellington, Stadium Jumping created and operated the long running Sunshine Circuit in other parts of the State of Florida. The company also manages equestrian events in Lake Placid, NY, New Albany, Ohio, Tampa, FL, and in Cleveland, Ohio.
With their current lease set to expire following the 2008 show season, Stadium Jumping President Eugene R. Mische and the Board of Directors have been actively seeking either a long-term lease or purchase arrangement through Mark Bellissimo and the Wellington Equestrian Partners for the past six months. The Wellington Equestrian Partners is composed of Bellissimo, Roger Smith, Dennis Dammerman and the Burton Family.
The Board of Directors and staff anticipated a long-term viable lease for the show grounds that would ensure its permanent place in the community. The hastily drawn up, overreaching agreement that finally arrived via fax last Wednesday evening was a disappointment to all involved, according to Board of Directors spokesman, Lou Jacobs. “The Wellington Equestrian Partners clearly do not understand the importance of the show grounds to this community and are slowly squeezing this landmark right out of town. We have a fiduciary responsibility to Stadium Jumping and its shows as directors and principals to determine what the future is for the horse shows in the years 2009 and beyond,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll be surprising anyone by saying that the horse show, in its current footprint, is facing constraint.”
Originally the show grounds contained more than 120 acres. Its current footprint is approximately 60 acres, with much of the grounds being sold off over the years.
Jacobs continued, “Over the years, the horse show grounds have been cannibalized. As the property becomes more valuable, the Wellington Equestrian Partners continue to sell off ‘out parcels’ of the show grounds property. In our negotiations with Wellington Equestrian Partners, we have been trying to preserve the existing footprint, which is considerably smaller than was originally created,” Jacobs explained. “The agreement that was sent offers even less land than the show grounds had originally. It’s a travesty to this community.”
Stadium Jumping President Eugene Mische says even as is, the Winter Equestrian Festival has exceeded capacity. “The facility was built to accommodate 1000 horses, when you include the stabling. We’re currently working with three thousand to thirty-eight hundred horses per week. Of course, it varies from week to week, but you can imagine that any less land just won’t work. I am incredibly disappointed by the proposed lease,” he said.
Jacobs said that with the presentation of the new lease terms, the Board of Directors are left with little choice other than to begin a search for a new location for the Winter Equestrian Festival beginning with the 2009 show season. “We’ve got $10 million dollars in infrastructure here that would be abandoned to go to a new site,” Jacobs said. “But, we’re being forced into that option. As a member of this community, and an avid equestrian family, it’s not something we want to do, but it appears as if any attempt at a viable lease has been exhausted. It truly is a sad day for this community and for those of us who love the show grounds current location and all that it represents in this community.”
The grandiose project being billed as a “World Class Equestrian Destination” by the Wellington Equestrian Partners may very soon force out the major league franchise that created the destination to begin with. “The entire facility would have to be abandoned,” Mische said. “From the announcer’s stands, the entire International Arena structure and setup, the permanent barns, the rings, everything we’ve built, will have to be rebuilt at our new facility. In the rings alone we’ve upgraded the grand prix schooling area and right now we’re installing a new RISO surface in the new FEI area for a cost of another $150,000, and we’ve had to do all of this because of the continued selling off of the parcels that make up the show grounds and the lack of a commitment to a viable lease,” Mische said.
There were over 100 acres to work with when Stadium Jumping, Inc. first moved to the show grounds in Wellington. The current show grounds are just over seventy acres. The proposed lease arrangement is for slightly more than fifty acres. “It’s just not enough,” said Mische.
The Wellington Equestrian Partners arrangement has already cost Stadium Jumping a good portion of their income since beginning their project. With the continued sell off of show grounds property, stabling for horses competing at the Winter Equestrian Festival has been moved to the Wellington Equestrian Partners owned property at the Littlewood show grounds adjacent to the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club.
“The continued draining of both our property and our income leaves us no choice but to look elsewhere,” added Mische. “I feel bad for the people that are buying new property under the assumption that these horse shows will be here in perpetuity. That’s just not the case.”
With these latest developments, the Board of Directors has authorized their agents to immediately begin a search for alternative sites. The group is also hoping that potential developers who know of sites that may be appropriate contact Stadium Jumping agents directly. They did not release a timetable or proposed locations, however a search committee has been established to begin exploring options to ensure the viability of the show grounds going forward.
News Source - PMG