Polk officials respond to possibility of 2018 World Equestrian Games
MILL SPRING – With the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) bidding to host the 2018 World Equestrian Games (WEG) Polk County officials are responding that it will need to be a local and regional planning effort and that they are looking forward to the impact the games could have on jobs and the local economy.
The Bulletin asked Polk County Commissioners, county manager Marche Pittman and county economic development director Robert Williamson if they support the games coming to TIEC and what they plan to do to prepare for the games.
Pittman said if past events are an indicator, the WEG will be one of the biggest events ever held in Polk County.
“An event of this size will have a big impact on both our local economy and our local resources,” Pittman said. “We have contacted resources at the state, who will help us start putting some aspects of the planning together. I fully anticipate that our resource needs will include multiple counties in North Carolina as well as counties from South Carolina.
“We are very excited about the opportunity, but know there has to be a major collaborative effort by our local governments to respond to the demands that this type of event will place on our resources.”
TIEC bid for the games to be held at its Pea Ridge Road location after Bromont, Quebec, Canada dropped their bid in late July. The WEG is hosted every four years and is administered by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI).
The WEG was held in Lexington, Kentucky in 2010 with a reported total of 507,022 people in attendance. Those attendance numbers were added over the 16-day event, and ranged from just over 12,000 people in attendance a couple of days, between 23,000 and almost 30,000 people on half of the days and other days with as many as 31,000, 34,000, 44,000, 46,000 and over 50,000 people one day, according to the final attendance report of the 2010 WEG.
Williamson said Polk County has an opportunity to plan for a 14-day event, “the likes of which we’ve not seen here before.”
He said the logistical planning will involve and benefit many in the eight-county region of North and South Carolina.
“We have to continually think ‘regional’ for events such as the WEG to make sure that the many local and regional businesses, their employees and suppliers, as well as the residents of Polk and the surrounding counties can see this as a welcomed boost to our economic prosperity,” Williamson said. “And an inspiring venue for all the WEG competition teams and visitors.”
The 2018 WEG will mean jobs for Polk residents, sales for local businesses and tax revenues for the county, according to Williamson.
“Planning for this opportunity will also involve local and regional law enforcement, medical first responders, fire departments, municipal and county government units and officials from the states of North and South Carolina,” said Williamson.
County commissioner Ted Owens said he supports the games being held in Polk County mainly for the potential economic impact. Owens said we need to be aware that an opportunity like this does not happen often and to also realize it will involve all this region including both North and South Carolina.
“The important thing is Columbus, Tryon, Saluda and Polk County need to take the lead and begin planning now and work with TIEC to do the ground work that is needed to hold an event of this magnitude,” said Owens.
Owens also said advantages including the much-needed improved interchange at 74 and I-26 which will need to be completed.
“I would think that the business community will see a boom in this,” Owens added. “We need to thank TIEC, Mark Bellissimo, Roger Smith and investors for their willingness to hold the games here, for there are other choices.”
Williamson said it is an honor to be the home of a world-class equestrian venue such as TIEC and their location here has had the promise of bigger and better things to come from day one.
“While the 2010 WEG at the Kentucky Horse Park required the construction of facilities, many of the needed facilities already exist here at TIEC,” said Williamson. “Even with the facilities we have here there will be additional development on the TIEC site to accommodate the events, the competing teams and spectators’ needs from around the world.”
Williamson also said regardless of securing the 2018 games, Polk County, TIEC and the region is being introduced to the international equestrian audience in a big way.
“Planning for our future prosperity in ways that preserves what makes our county and this region so special will be a critical success factor,” said Williamson. “Now is the time to begin planning for the 2018 WEG and any future events of this magnitude.”