OPINION: Michael Stone Addresses Plans For Improvements At Showgrounds

I am grateful that we had an opportunity to present to Wellington’s Equestrian Preserve Committee last week and engage with the community more broadly regarding our aspirations for new and enhanced showgrounds spanning 180 acres that will support jumpers, hunters and dressage with state-of-the-art facilities for participants, spectators and sponsors for years to come.

Our paramount goal at Wellington International, as part of the Global Equestrian Group, is to envision, build and operate showgrounds that firmly establish Wellington as the equestrian capital of the world.

Many of you know me and would acknowledge my commitment and passion for Wellington and the equestrian industry since I arrived in 2008.

While admittedly, the presentation was incomplete and frustrating for many in attendance; it was essential to begin the conversation about the potential new showgrounds and introduce, in my view, the intricacies that are at play for our dreams to become a reality. We have had many false starts over the years, and we do not want to make promises that we can’t keep. However, we have some conceptual plans that we will share, bearing in mind that we will be working with world-class architects before we have a final plan.

While it may not seem so from the outside looking in, the showgrounds and competitive horse sport industry have always been relatively small businesses, appearing to be bigger than they are. As mentioned last week, dressage is small in comparison to the hunter-jumper world, generally operating at break-even. In order for the sport we love to thrive, it is critical that we consolidate jumping, hunters and dressage to a single showground to drive business efficiencies and synergies that strengthen all three sports to benefit participants, patrons and, most importantly, the horses.

As an equestrian and year-round Wellington resident, I must acknowledge what the Bellissimo family has done to help expand the industry within Wellington. Without that vision, just like Gene Mische before, we would not be here today. With GEG committed and behind the horse shows and the USPA behind polo, the sport is guaranteed to survive in Wellington.

We recognize the sequencing of not formally presenting our plans for the new showgrounds before plans were shared for a new private community may have seemed to cast doubt on our commitment. We also understand that we have work to do to create enhanced communication with the community about our expansion plans. Still, GEG and our entire team are committed to designing and winning approvals for these essential new showgrounds to ensure our sport thrives for generations in Wellington.

We look forward to sharing our plans in the days ahead, engaging various stakeholders to optimize these plans and working with all interested parties to realize our goals to create a flourishing equestrian community that solidifies Wellington as the horse sport capital of the world.

Michael Stone, President, Wellington International