Wellington investors spend up on equestrian estate in North Carolina


Some of the biggest players in the equestrian heart of Wellington, Florida, are investing heavily in a new resort in North Carolina.

The Tryon International Equestrian Center opened late last month with five arenas and 500 permanent stables. Plans include expansion to include a 6000-seat outdoor stadium and additional arenas and stables.

Its backers hope the development in Tryon will develop into what they termed the most significant new equestrian lifestyle destination in the world.

An artist's impression of the new equestrian center at Tryon, once fully developed.
An artist’s impression of the new equestrian center at Tryon, once fully developed.

The managing partner of Tryon Equestrian Partners, Mark Bellissimo, has revealed the major plans for ongoing development of the resort.

Tryon Resort, in the foothills of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, is set on 1400 acres which has at its heart the Tryon International Equestrian Center.

The project has already created hundreds of new construction jobs, and will contribute hundreds of permanent jobs and tens of millions of dollars to the local economy and tax base.

Tryon Equestrian Partners started the project in January, employing more than 500 people to move 1.6 million cubic yards of earth, build five riding arenas with world-class footing, erect 500 permanent stables, and build several homes in the resort’s new Log Cabin Village.

“Our goal is to create a special place that focuses on the passion and love for both horses and horse sport,” Bellissimo said.

“We intend for individuals and families, whether they are participants or spectators, to enjoy a broad range of activities while also maintaining the area’s rural character and honoring its long-standing equestrian tradition.

“We believe the resort will be a major job engine and contribute to the community’s economic recovery.

Tryon Equestrian Partners’ founding shareholders are Mark and Katherine Bellissimo; Roger and Jennifer Smith; Gwen and Howard Dvorkin; Lisa Lourie; Diana and Jenji Mercer; and Joe and Cindy Mitchell.

Roger Smith, a founding partner of the venture, added: “We want to thank the Polk County Commissioners for having the vision and foresight to support this effort, which we all believe will have a great economic impact on all members of the community.”

Some of the Tryon Equestrian Partners are also principals in the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, home of the world-famous Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, which is the largest and longest-running equestrian festival in the world.

The festival generates close to 100,000 room nights for the area from January to March, as well attracting over 6000 horses from 50 states and 33 countries.

Bellissimo believes the Tryon Resort will be a significant contributor to the tourism industries of North Carolina and South Carolina, the border of which is only seven miles away.

The Tryon International Equestrian Center has already hosted its first multi-day, international-level equestrian competitions across several disciplines in collaboration with the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club.

These events will complement the Tryon Horse Show, which is the third oldest horse show in the country.

When fully completed, the equestrian facility will feature up to 10 riding arenas, including one with stadium seating for 6000, 1000 permanent stalls, elevated and shaded viewing decks, a large covered riding facility and the Tryon Sports Complex, which will include a health club, game room, children’s camp, sports bar, children’s playground, tennis courts, mountain bike park, climbing walls, basketball court, and a large pool.

Perched above the equestrian show grounds and scheduled to open in 2016 is a 150-room hotel being developed by Salamander Hotels & Resorts. It will feature a restaurant and bar, retail shops, a market, indoor and outdoor heated pools, a fitness center, event space for weddings and meetings, and a 5000-square-foot entertainment pavilion.

Additional plans call for a spa, a dining and conference space set atop a panoramic vista, the completion of the resort’s Arnold Palmer signature design golf course, and the construction of luxury homes. Each of these components will be managed by Salamander, which will also serve as the resort’s design architects.

Bellissimo and his partners have faced some ongoing political opposition within Wellington’s village council to expansion plans for his equestrian interests there.

He told the Palm Beach Post in a statement: “We are committed to re-invest in Wellington only when this atmosphere changes and the political leaders want to build, not dismantle, its future.”

The Winter Equestrian Festival, run at the 89-acre Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, is said to generate $US100 million in annual visitor spending for the local county during its three-month run each year.


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