Following the withdrawal of Samorin, Slovakia, as host city of the 2022 World Equestrian Games, FEI president Ingmar de Vos had remarked, “We are confident there will be [other] candidates.” But who might be financially willing and logistically able to assume the crushing burden of playing host to this mammoth undertaking? We look at some likely prospects in a relatively shallow pool of possibilities.
World Equestrian Center
Ocala, Florida, and Wilmington, Ohio
Facilities: With two U.S. locations ‒ an operational facility in Ohio (Roberts Arena) and a planned super-venue in Ocala ‒ there may be two options for hosting. The Ohio venue houses the largest equestrian indoor arena in the United States; the facility has 650 permanent horse stalls and can add 350 temporary ones when needed. There are cabins on the property and rental properties across the road, as well as nearly 100 RV sites and a number of hotels about 15 miles away.
The Ocala arena will be approximately 140,000 sq ft (3.2 acres), with covered grandstands on three sides, VIP area, jumbotrons, a state-of-the-art sound system, all-weather irrigated footing in 17 rings and 18,000 sq. ft of vendor space on a 3,000-acre property. Adjacent will be a five-storey, 260-room hotel. There will be 1,500 permanent stalls, climate-controlled indoor arenas,
So who are the people behind WEC? Ralph L. “Larry” Roberts is the founder of the transportation company R+L Carriers Inc., which in 50 years has grown from one truck to nearly 13,000 tractors and trailers. He built the massive arena in Ohio (originally called Roberts Arena) to host company holiday parties, and also to accommodate the family’s deep-rooted love of Quarter Horses. His son, Roby Roberts, took over the facility (now named the World Equestrian Center) and it has rapidly evolved into a world-class show facility.
Pros: Is already hosting large horse shows and has arenas and stabling in place in Ohio. The Ocala facility will be considerably larger; completion date TBD.
Cons: There is no cross-country course at either venue but one could easily be built on the large quantity of available land. Also, the FEI may not want WEG to take place in the same country twice in a row.
Official Comments: A spokesperson for WEC commented, “I have spoken with management and ownership and they both agree that the WEC would certainly be interested in bidding for the WEG.”
The Soers, Aachen, Germany
Facilities: Show jumping is held in the Hauptstadion, dressage takes place in the Deutsche Bank Stadium and vaulting is in the Albert-Vahle-Halle stadium. World-class eventing cross-country and driving marathon courses.
Pros: Home of the annual World Equestrian Festival CHIO, which features five disciplines (jumping, dressage, vaulting, eventing, driving); has hosted the FEI European Reining Championships. Hosted WEG in the past (2006), which was deemed a huge success from an organizational standpoint.
Cons: No endurance course. No interest in hosting (see comment below).
Official Comments: Spokesperson Niels Knippertz advised, “We do not consider [hosting the WEG].”
Sydney International Equestrian Centre
Horsley Park NSW, Australia
Facilities: Set on 237 acres of rural parkland, the centre features world-class facilities that include 15 indoor and outdoor arenas, a cross-country course, permanent stabling for approximately 300 horses, some on-site accommodation (40 cabins and 115 powered campsites); 14 hotels/motels within about 30 km area.
Pros: Site of the equestrian events of the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games, so has hosted a major Games in the past.
Cons: Located on Aboriginal land. No endurance or driving course. Australia has strict equine importation rules with a two-week quarantine. Only 25 nations are currently approved for exporting horses to Australia.
Official Comments: “The City of Sydney has not expressed an interest in becoming host.” ~ Jo McKinnon, Brand & PR Specialist, Equestrian Australia
Tryon International Equestrian Center
Mill Spring, North Carolina
Facilities: A world-class venue with outstanding facilities. As of 2017 the 1,600-acre property features 12 outdoor riding arenas, more than 1,200 permanent stalls, and a variety of restaurants and bars, and was undergoing massive construction projects in preparation for 2018 WEG (new main stadium, additional seating, cross-country course designed by Capt. Mark Phillips, driving marathon course designed by Richard Nicoll, quarantine barn, additional stabling, and several on-site hotels.)
Pros: Has facilities for all eight disciplines in place and will have already hosted a WEG in 2018. Organizers appear to have very deep pockets and a lot of drive to get things done.
Cons: Remains to be seen how successful this WEG will be; there may be some issues regarding housing spectators and other non-athletes off-site, possible traffic issues, etc. Organizers will be bearing the full financial burden, as there is no title sponsor, so a financial failure may discourage a repeat. FEI would likely not want WEG held at the same venue twice in a row.
Official Comments: Tryon has declined to comment at this time.
Kentucky Horse Park
Facilities: Four-star CCI cross-country course; 406′ x 306′ outdoor Rolex Stadium can accommodate up to 30,000 spectators; 135’ x 300’ covered Alltech Arena has permanent seating for 5,500+. Five hunter/jumper rings, five dressage pads, and a 1,200 acre property
Pros: Hosted the 2010 WEG, so all facilities (arenas, stabling, seating) are in place. Hosts a 4* Three-Day Event each spring (one of only six in the world).
Cons: Alltech stepped in as title sponsor of the 2010 Games (originally valued at $10 million); when the WEG budget had to be cut back due to flagging ticket sales, Alltech stepped up its financial support to the tune of about $32 million. KHP was an original 2022 WEG bidder before dropping out, citing a needed $12 million in improvements to the park and that it was not be economically feasible, according to Tandy Patrick, chair of the KHP Commission. FEI typically does not want a WEG in the same country twice in a row.
Official Comments: The Kentucky Horse Park Commission voted on Jan. 13th to withdraw from consideration for hosting the 2022 World Equestrian Games. Commission members expressed concerns regarding staging of the games and the potential conflict that hosting would create with the long-term goals of the Kentucky Horse Park, including limitations on potential Horse Park-generated revenue opportunities.
“We are committed to being good stewards of the Kentucky Horse Park,” said Tandy Patrick, chair of the Kentucky Horse Park Commission. “We do not think it would be economically feasible for the park to host the 2022 games.”
“We have had an open dialogue with the public through several visioning sessions and we’re hearing good ideas about long-term strategic growth at the park,” said Don Parkinson, secretary of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. “Additionally, a recent survey of the park’s assets found $12 million in deferred maintenance expenses, and we recognize the need for immediate and near-term investments in our facilities.”
Facilities: This enormous event centre owned by Austrian auto parts magnate Frank Stronach contains a racetrack and facilities that host a number of national show jumping, vaulting, and dressage tournaments each year. The Pferdesportpark Magna Racino sits on nearly 500 acres with three large outdoor rings, three indoor arenas, and 11 barns housing 900 stalls.
Pros: Convenient central European location, spacious facility already hosting several disciplines. Plenty of hotels within 15 km.
Cons: No eventing, driving or endurance facilities. Has not hosted a major FEI event. Original bidder for 2018 WEG but failed to meet the last submission deadline, as Stronach was occupied with political aspirations. The organizers also cited the fact that the FEI requires very high financial guarantees to which no political party was willing to commit.
Official Comments: According to Nikki Walker, her grandfather, Frank Stronach, “would be delighted to make the facility available for the Games if outside funding was provided for additional infrastructure.”
Facilities: Massive, modern facility with 120 x 80m outdoor arena, covered grandstand seating and air-conditioned indoor arena seating 6,000. Currently 400 stalls with room for expansion. State-of-the-art veterinary facility.
Pros: Already hosts the Global Champions Tour final event and an annual CHI with a CPEDI3* and five-star CSI and CDI competition. Small hotel on site; plenty of major hotels 10-15 km away. Organizers would likely have no problem funding the venture in Qatar, the richest country in the world.
Cons: No cross-country course, although there is an adjacent golf course and a large tract of open land behind the nearby palace of the former Emir (the Royal family are enormous supporters of the horse). Endurance courses are primarily sand. Harsh Arabic climate would dictate that event took place either early spring or last fall; unlikely they would host during the latter because of conflict with 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Official Comments: Repeated attempts to obtain a statement from representatives of Al Shaqab were not answered.