By the time the 2018 World Equestrian Games (WEG) open at Tryon Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina, on Sept. 11, more than 500 construction workers will have put in around-the-clock hours to build major infrastructure for the 13-day quadrennial event. Construction projects include a new stadium, a 180-room resort hotel, condos and apartments.
The WEG focuses on eight core equestrian disciplines: show jumping, dressage and para-equestrian dressage, eventing, driving, endurance, vaulting and reining. Officials say the 2018 Games have the potential to be the largest sporting event in North Carolina history — with an expected 500,000 spectators and a projected economic income of more than $400 million. According to the Fédération Equestre Internationale, the 2014 Games in Normandy, France, attracted 984 athletes, 1,234 horses, 74 nations, 1,900 accredited media from 52 countries and 575,000 spectators.
This will be only the second time since the FEI began the event in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1990 that the international championship will be held on United States soil. (Kentucky hosted the WEG in 2010.)
Sharon Decker, chief operating officer of the Tryon Equestrian Center, told WLOS, western North Carolina’s ABC-TV affiliate, that her facility also is the first one with private investors to host the WEG.
“In Kentucky, for example, when the World Games were there, over $60 million was contributed by the state,” she said, adding that North Carolina awarded a $500,000 grant to Tryon to assist with new water and sewer lines outside the grounds. Another $500,000 state grant was used to repurpose an off-site former manufacturing plant into modular hotel rooms.
A hotel on the Tryon Equestrian Center’s grounds is under construction, although a second planned hotel will not be built, WLOS reports. Additionally, a variety of lodging options already exist at Tryon, including other hotel rooms, plus log cabins and RV sites. “By far, the vast majority of the 500,000 anticipated visitors and spectators will be staying in area hotels, rental homes and home-stays, according to WLOS. “The expectation is something similar to Augusta during the Masters, as locals in the Tryon area rent out their homes for the two-week international event that will be televised.”
Originally scheduled to take place in Bromont, Quebec, Canada, the Games were relocated to northwestern North Carolina in 2016 after Bromont’s organizing team ran into financial difficulties. The move, determined by FEI leadership, gave Tryon officials considerably less time to prepare than other host venues, but facility operators jumped at the opportunity.
“Our organizing team has a lot of experience pulling off large-scale events, and FEI knows we have the ability to pull together events on a short timeline,” Carly Weilminster, Tryon’s national press officer for the Games, told Sports Destination Management in 2017. “This event has … already has put the region on the global map. Mill Spring could become one of the hubs of the equestrian world.”