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USPA Secures A Permanent Home For Polo In South Florida With Agreement To Purchase International Polo Club Palm Beach From Wellington Equestrian Partners

The United States Polo Association is pleased to announce that it has purchased the core assets of the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida (“IPC”). The USPA has acquired 161 acres from WEP Polo LLC and WEP Polo Operations LLC, including Fields 1 through 5, the IPC grandstand, the Pavilion, the Mallet Grille, the Seventh Chukker, the USPA Clubhouse shop, the Outback Field, the Outback facility, and the IPC social club and its facilities, including a swimming pool, gym, and tennis courts.

The IPC property will be called “The USPA National Polo Center – Wellington” (“NPC”).

The purchase brings to life the USPA Board of Governors’ vision of a USPA-owned “Sunday Field” that will serve as the permanent center of polo in America and set the standard for excellence in polo. That vision was first articulated by USPA Chairman Stewart Armstrong in an essay called The Sunday Field that appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Hurlingham Polo Magazine.

Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of Wellington Equestrian Partners (“WEP”), and Wellington’s largest private landowner, commented, “The sale of IPC to the USPA is part our ‘Wellington 3.0’ strategy which is focused on strengthening both the equestrian venues and the core lifestyle elements that are critical for Wellington’s long-term success. We chose the USPA over competing offers and real estate development strategies to ensure that this fundamental pillar of the Wellington equestrian domain will be here for the next 100 years.  I was inspired by Stewart Armstrong’s vision and believe the USPA has the commitment and resources to take this venue and the sport of polo to the next level which is a win for all involved.”

The USPA will continue to host the Gauntlet of Polo® at NPC, but it will also use the facility to support polo played at the medium- and low-goal levels. The USPA intends to keep substantially all the current IPC staff in place. Tim Gannon, co-founder of Outback Steakhouse and three-time winner of the U.S. Open Polo Championship®, will serve as Chairman of the Board of a newly formed USPA subsidiary created to revitalize the social club and hospitality facilities.

With its ownership of the National Polo Center, the USPA has secured a perpetual home for polo in America that will serve the same function as the AAP-controlled Palermo fields and AAP-owned Pilar fields do in Argentina. In short, the facility will enable the USPA to showcase its tournaments, develop American players, and sustain an environment that will retain and attract new players and sponsors at every level. It will also secure the future of winter and spring polo in South Florida, which many of the sport’s key participants from throughout the country rely on as a major source of the annual income that allows them to participate in polo at their summer and fall club locations.

Through its use of NPC, the USPA aims to promote excellence as the goal for all who play polo in America. The USPA is confident that continuing to strive for excellence will lead to even greater demand for polo. Excellence means many things – among them are first-rate facilities to present the sport in the best light, intelligent rules, fair handicapping, quality umpiring, and a level playing field for all. It inspires both amateurs and professionals to be their best and play with the best and it results in an engaging experience for players and spectators. Excellence requires commitment – it doesn’t happen on its own.

The USPA will continue to invest in the sport of polo at its member clubs across the United States. All its current programs will continue to be funded and operated on their pre-purchase trajectories. These include the Arena Tournament Initiative, Bridge to High Goal (B2HG), Interscholastic/Intercollegiate (I/I), Legacy Polo Series, National Arena Amateur Cup, Military Incentive Program, National Youth Tournament Series (NYTS), Polo Development Initiative (PDI), Prize Money Matching (PMMP), Tournament Support Program (TSP), Trophy Reimbursement, the Professional and Certified Umpires programs, USPA Livestreaming, and the Women’s Tournament Incentive Program.

Beginning this year with the FIP World Championship, which will be hosted by the USPA at Valiente Polo Farm and NPC from October 26 through November 6, 2022, the USPA plans to open the annual Wellington polo season in October. This expansion of play dates will allow USPA member clubs in and beyond Florida to play their tournament semifinals and finals at the National Polo Center when it is not being used for the Gauntlet®.

“The investment in a high-profile Sunday Field will enable the sport and brand to control our destiny for future generations,” said J. Michael Prince, President and CEO of USPA Global Licensing, which manages the global, multi-billion-dollar U.S. Polo Assn. brand. “With a global footprint across 190 countries, we view the Sunday Field as a unique opportunity to highlight U.S. Polo Assn.’s authentic connection to the sport and build additional global brand awareness.  Additionally, this opportunity will create an epicenter of polo to promote not only high-goal events such as the Gauntlet of Polo®, but also other best-in-class opportunities at all levels supporting key polo competitions and demographics, such as international, low-goal, medium-goal, women’s, intercollegiate, interscholastic, youth and many others.”

Wellington Village Manager Jim Barnes is enthusiastic about the USPA expanding its footprint in the Village. “Wellington welcomes the USPA’s purchase of the former IPC facility and the establishment of the National Polo Center, which will ensure polo’s permanent and important presence in the Village for the mutual benefit of the polo community and Village residents.”

Widely regarded as the winter hub of world-class equestrian competition, Wellington has played a critical role in the development of the sport of polo in the United States and abroad since the 1970s. Every January through April, the Florida high-goal season attracts the world’s top polo organizations, highest-rated professionals, and top horses. South Florida is the home of the USPA and USPA Global Licensing, as well as the Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame and the Polo Training Foundation.

The United States Polo Association® (“USPA”) is organized and exists for the purposes of promoting the game of polo; coordinating the activities of its Member Clubs and Registered Player Members; arranging and supervising polo tournaments, competitions, and games; and providing rules, handicaps, and tournament conditions for those events. Its overarching goals are improving the sport and promoting the safety and welfare of its human and equine participants. Founded in 1890, the USPA is the largest voluntary sports organization in North America for the sport of polo. The USPA is currently made up of more than 200 Member Clubs and approximately 5,000 Registered Player Members. It annually awards and oversees roughly 50 national tournaments hosted by its Member Clubs. For more information, please visit uspolo.org.

U.S. Polo Assn. is the official brand of the USPA.  With a multi-billion-dollar global footprint and worldwide distribution through some 1,200 U.S. Polo Assn. retail stores, department stores, sporting goods channels, independent retailers and e-commerce, U.S. Polo Assn. offers apparel for men, women, and children, as well as accessories and footwear in 190 countries worldwide. Ranked the fifth largest sports licensor in License Global magazine’s 2020 list of “Top 150 Global Licensors,” U.S. Polo Assn. is named alongside such iconic sports brands as the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball. Visit uspoloassnglobal.com.

Wellington Equestrian Partners, LLC (“WEP”) is a Wellington based partnership whose primary mission is to enhance and preserve Wellington’s equestrian economy. Until recently, WEP owned more than 1,000 acres in Wellington and has been the key driver of Wellington’s emergence as the premiere equestrian lifestyle destination in the world. WEP owned both the venues and the operating companies of the three primary pillars of the Wellington Equestrian scene: show jumping, dressage, and polo, which represented over 90% of the Wellington equestrian economy. Wellington’s equestrian festivals host over ten thousand participants and 250,000 spectators from 50 states and 43 countries. Its events contribute close to $200 million of annual economic impact for Palm Beach County. Mark Bellissimo is the managing partner and WEP’s largest shareholder.

Original article: The Chronicle of the Horse (chronofhorse.com)