This Thanksgiving weekend, more than 200 field hockey teams will take to the fields of the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington for the National Hockey Festival, set for Thursday, Nov. 22 through Sunday, Nov. 25.
Put on by the USA Field Hockey Association, the event is the sport’s national championship.
“This is the premier field hockey event in the nation,” Palm Beach County Sports Commission Executive Director George Linley told members of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce last week. “There is a waitlist of teams trying to get into the tournament. They cannot meet the demands for the number of teams who want to play.”
With the level of talent, Linley said that spectators will get to watch the makings of future Olympians.
“USA Field Hockey is the national governing body of the sport, which means they get to choose the Olympic team,” he said. “There will be future Olympians showcased [at the event].”
Linley said that the tournament is returning to Wellington because of the village’s unique ability to host the games.
“USA Field Hockey is no stranger to Wellington,” Linley said. “In fact, we’ve hosted a version of their national championships seven previous times. We’re thrilled to bring it back to Wellington, where it belongs.”
With more than 4,000 competitors and 8,000 spectators expected to come into Wellington, Linley said that many venues were not as well equipped as the International Polo Club Palm Beach.
“There are very few amateur sporting events that bring this type of crowd into this community,” he said. “There are very few venues that can duplicate the kind of experience at IPC.”
The 200 acres will host 30 field hockey pitches on the five polo fields, with the remaining space used for parking, vendors and spectators.
“The entire event will be centrally located,” Linley said. “IPC will be transformed into an athletes village in an Olympic-style festival right on the field.”
The competition is divided by age, with 16 and under, 19 and under and adult divisions.
“Ninety-nine percent of the participants will be female,” Linley said. “Field hockey is a very popular sport for young women in high school and college.”
Though there are no teams from Florida represented, Linley said it will be a boon for Wellington’s business, with approximately $9 million estimated in visitor spending.
Linley encouraged the community to come out and support this unique event.
“For an amateur sporting event, there are very few out there that can actually bring 200 teams in a single event,” he said. “If you’re staying in town, try to get out to IPC. This is a really special occasion for the Village of Wellington and Palm Beach County.”
The Wellington Village Council approved a sponsorship of the event at its last meeting and will partner with the commission and the International Polo Club Palm Beach to put on the event.
For more information, visit the Palm Beach County Sports Commission web site at www.palmbeachsports.com.
Above: The divisions include women’s U-16 and U-19, boys U-16, women’s open and mixed adult (shown here).