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Crews hustle to finish facilities

In 111 days, it’s showtime for the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC). The world’s biggest equestrian event – the FEI World Equestrian Games – kicks off with opening ceremonies the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 23.

It’s a one-and-done event for this venue – the WEG has never repeated at any site over its 28-year history – and all the workers in hard hats, concrete panels, steel girders, rebar and heavy construction equipment kicking up clouds of dust suggests it will be a miracle if it all gets done on time.

Carly Weilminster, national press officer for WEG, isn’t worried. She says she and her team like the adrenaline rush of having to get done in 22 months what other venues had 48 months to complete.

TIEC secured the games in November 2016 after Bromont, Canada, withdrew from consideration. “We’ve been working 24/7 365 since then” to complete spectator venues, an indoor riding arena, lodging for athletes, trainers, stewards, grooms, veterinarians, judges, officials and other WEG employees as well as parking lots, roads and infrastructure.

The construction push is for the athlete village, which is expected to be finished by opening, Weilminster said, and a resort hotel to open later, perhaps in September. Construction is complete on the indoor riding arena, formerly the covered arena. TIEC will close for the month of August in the final push to get everything completed by September, she said.

Work on the satellite parking lots is on schedule, she said. The main stadium is under construction, with permanent and temporary seating for 20,000 and sponsor boxes that will feature bird’s eye views of competition in the stadium as well as on the cross-country course — a former golf course — and other arenas.

Construction on the Tryon center started in 2014, when Mark Bellissimo, a graduate of Middlebury College and Harvard Business School and the owner of Equestrian Sport Productions, and several partners purchased 1,600 acres in Polk County as a site for a year-round equestrian center to go with his other centers in Wellington, Florida and Parker, Colorado. The construction footprint at TIEC is small now but will continue to grow, Weilminster said.

More than 500,000 people are expected to attend over the two weeks of the games, she said. It’s a ballpark guess, as they won’t have official numbers until the end of the games. But with an expected 30,000 to 50,000 spectators per day, TIEC will welcome the world to its doors – via those international and US visitors and international media broadcasts.

It’s a global market for horse-lovers and sponsors, with an expected 75 countries represented in the competitions. Major sponsors include Longines and US Trust and Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch.

The FEI World Equestrian Games, held every four years in the middle of the Olympic cycle, is the property of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the world governing body for horse sport recognized by the International Olympic Committee. It is one of the biggest events on the global sporting calendar, combining world championships in the Olympic disciplines of jumping, dressage and eventing, the Paralympic discipline of Para-equestrian dressage, and driving, endurance, vaulting and reining.
The inaugural FEI World Equestrian Games™ were hosted in Stockholm in 1990. The first games to be organized outside Europe were the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010. The games were in Normandy in 2014.
With lodging, tickets, and the influx of people from around the world, the WEG at TIEC will have an “economic impact and a lasting impact for the region,” Weilminster said. “Mark’s vision is to include everyone who loves horses,” not just fans and participants in the high-profile equestrian disciplines, she said.
The purchase of general ground passes will be launched in July “so that people can just come to the venue, to experience the place and the event and the horses but not necessarily because they are equestrians,” she said.
For more information about TIEC and the World Equestrian Games, visit