An ambitious plan to transform Wellington, Florida, into the “Equestrian Capital of the World” for sport, commerce, and lifestyle is being developed to meet new market demands.
Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of Wellington Equestrian Partners, LLC (WEP), has announced the initiative – dubbed Wellington 3.0 – following a record year for jumping, dressage, and polo. Events in 2022 attracted more than 5,000 families from 50 states and 43 countries and contributed an estimated $200 million of annual economic impact to Palm Beach County.
Bellissimo said the jumping and dressage events are rapidly outgrowing their venues and require significant improvements to support demand and elevate quality standards. “If not addressed, competitors with newer, larger venues will challenge Wellington’s stature as the premier destination. Our equestrian venues and the events are at the core of our success.
“Wellington is one of the most unique equestrian destinations in the world. As a full-time resident, my passion for this community is enduring. I am hopeful these 3.0 efforts will resonate with equestrians and non-equestrians alike as we work together to take the steps to make it a phenomenal year-round destination,” Bellissimo said.
The aim is to protect, expand, and enhance Wellington equestrian venues by ensuring that each equestrian venue is world-class and secure for generations to come through a transition from personal venue ownership to long-term institutional ownership.
The initiative would effectively double the showgrounds footprint around the existing Wellington International (WI) showgrounds, expanding the footprint from 86 to 190 acres by converting 104 currently residentially zoned acres into Commercial Equestrian zoned land.
A master plans has been submitted by WEP in cooperation with the Global Equestrian Group to the Village of Wellington (VOW).
Driving the changes are the growth of the events, new market demands, more competitors, and the significant migration of full-time residents to South Florida driven by Covid.
The plan aims to have world-class venues with sufficient residential and commercial infrastructure to support a successful equestrian industry for the next 50 years and beyond.
“The vast majority of Wellington’s housing options were built before 2000 and Wellington is almost at full build-out. There is high demand and limited inventory for a broad range of golf-cart accessible residences which would enhance event experiences, reduce traffic, and draw more participants and residents.”
To compete with other venues, improved commercial lifestyle options such as restaurants, hotels, co-shared office space, and retail options were needed.
The plan includes converting 96 acres of commercial equestrian into pure residential at Equestrian Village. There would be no commercial elements at Equestrian Village as all commercial elements would be across South Shore Boulevard which is outside of the current Equestrian Overlay Zoning District (EOZD).
While WEP has sold more than 300 acres over the last year to equestrian-related entities Global Equestrian Group (GEG) and the United States Polo Association (USPA), it still owns more than 550 acres in Wellington.
An agreement between WEP and GEG includes a proposed sale of 80 acres of land to GEG to support a showgrounds expansion contingent on a zoning change for that land. GEG has already bought part of the land identified for expanded dressage and jumping showgrounds from WEP-related entities.
GEG CEO Andreas Helgstrand said the company was committed to the Village of Wellington and the equestrian community. “The showgrounds expansion will require significant investment which will ensure the finest equestrian facility and the highest-quality events in the world.”