When Hosting, The World Equestrian Center-Ocala Doesn’t Horse Around | Sports Destination Management

When Hosting, The World Equestrian Center-Ocala Doesn’t Horse Around

Sep 01, 2022 | By: Judy Leand
Photos property of World Equestrian Center-Ocala

The World Equestrian Center-Ocala is situated on 6,000 acres of gorgeous rolling in hills in the heart of North-Central Florida, a locale known as the Horse Capital of the World — so named because Ocala/Marion County is home to more horses and ponies than any other county in the United States.

This world-class venue, a sister property to the World Equestrian Center-Wilmington, is considered to be the largest indoor/outdoor equestrian facility in the world, with 2,880 stalls available for competitor stabling. It offers state-of-the-art amenities and was designed to accommodate numerous equine events at the same time and from different disciplines.

WEC-Ocala opened in January 2021, and is home to two exposition centers and five climate-controlled arenas with more than 700,000 square feet of flexible indoor space. The 378-acre facility includes 16 outdoor arenas with all-weather footing; exposition centers; dedicated schooling, warm-up and lunging rings; and climate-controlled indoor arenas. There are also many hacking trails with premium horse footing. WEC-Ocala’s 25 barns are climate-controlled and equipped with fans, and provide nearly 3,000 permanent, matted stalls and secured tack rooms. Each barn has dedicated paths and covered waiting areas throughout the facility to help riders, grooms and horses efficiently move to and from competition.

For those involved in horse competitions or other animal events, WEC-Ocala is in the process of building a 41,000-square-foot veterinary clinic on site. Canines, felines and equines are all welcome, be it for a routine check-up or for daycare. The clinic includes dedicated surgical and recovery rooms, scanning services, a farrier room, a lab and pharmacy, and an equine therapy pool, aqua treadmill, salt room and vibration therapy.

“WEC-Ocala is the home for hunter/jumper as well as equestrian competitors of all disciplines,” says Rodney Gutierrez, Director of Sales, World Equestrian Center-Ocala. He notes that since opening, the venue has hosted a variety of equestrian events including Hunter/Jumper, dressage, Quarter Horse, barrel racing, reining, Paso Fino, Arabian, Gypsy Vanner, Saddlebred and Morgan. “The World Equestrian Center-Ocala focuses on its core values of ‘Quality, Class and Distinction’ for shows and events. It is the ideal location for any event and offers all the amenities of a resort.”

Beyond the Saddle

While equine event organizers, riders and other horse enthusiasts will appreciate the quality and capacity offered by this multi-faceted equestrian complex, WEC-Ocala is also well suited to host a wide variety of non-equine events including but not limited to local, regional and national sports competitions, canine shows, conventions and trade shows. “We’ve held a number of equine and canine events at WEC-Ocala, and our first sporting events will take place in November and January,” says Gutierrez. On the docket in late November is the Ocala SlugFest Professional Boxing Fight, and in mid-January WEC-Ocala will host the First in Show Volleyball Tournament with Open, USA and Club division play for 10s to 18s.

WEC-Ocala’s world-class indoor facilities can accommodate many sports and performance competition events such as soccer, basketball, volleyball, weight lifting, wrestling, boxing, cheerleading, dance, martial arts, Cross Fit, archery, cornhole, futsal, BMX and climbing. WEC-Ocala can also easily host outdoor sports events including cross country running, lacrosse, cycling and obstacle events such as the Spartan Race. The addition of the iconic Ocala Jockey Club is an ideal location to host a variety of pop culture, social and athletic events.

Sports event organizers are invited to take advantage of WEC-Ocala’s two state-of-the-art expo centers, each of which provides 132,300 square feet of column-free, contiguous space that enables multiple configurations to accommodate the required size and set-up for a variety of functions. WEC-Ocala offers four indoor arenas with 1,400 seats and LED walls for projection, one indoor arena with 3,400 seats and LED walls for projection, and two outdoor open-air arenas with seating for 2,500 and 7,000, respectively.

“WEC-Ocala can certainly handle very large, complex multi-day competitions, but we also see an opportunity to host smaller events and meetings. We have a lot of assets on-site that are sure to attract a wide array of sports competitions and other events,” says Gutierrez. In fact, a big part of WEC-Ocala’s appeal is it has mixed-use capacity, which makes it a one-of-a-kind event destination.

Time to Relax

Besides its multitude of competition venues, WEC-Ocala boasts a plethora of other amenities to help visitors make the most of their downtime. These include golf cart rentals and a sand volleyball court, as well as multiple restaurants and dining choices throughout the grounds. For kids, WEC-Ocala even offers the Mr. Pickles & Sailor Bear Toy Shoppe. Named after two adorable dogs, the store is stocked with a vast collection of private label toys and other accessories including irresistible teddy bears and Breyer Horses.

For adults, the 7,000-square-foot salon and spa is a haven featuring the latest aesthetics, and guests can select from an extensive menu of unique massage and facial treatments, as well. Meanwhile, the fitness center provides up-to-date exercise systems and equipment. For anyone who prefers to exercise or simply meander outside, there are miles of walking and jogging trails throughout the property.

Because lodging is such an important part of any visit, WEC-Ocala provides three great options. First and foremost is the stately Equestrian Hotel that features 248 rooms and suites overlooking Grand Outdoor Arena, and is situated just minutes from the arenas, exposition centers and competition rings. The ground floor of the hotel contains nearly 13,000 square feet of luxury and lifestyle retail space with access to products, goods and services that cater to every need.

Visitors can also choose to stay in WEC-Ocala’s large RV park that boasts nearly 300 concrete parking slips with water, power and sewer hookups. The park is complete with a general store, laundromat and fueling station. Off-site but nearby, WEC-Ocala operates 70 “Home Away From Home” units (each three bed/two bath), located just minutes away.

Great Taste

There’s nothing like competition to whet one’s appetite, and WEC offers everything from luxury dining to field concessions and on-site catering options.

Stirrups, a fine dining restaurant, is located in the Equestrian Hotel, and there are seven additional restaurants throughout the property.

For those craving South of the Border cuisine, Filo’s Mexican Cantina is the place to go. Viola & Dot’s Italian Kitchen & Pizzeria serves up delicious classics, Yellow Pony Pub & Garden has an authentic pub menu, and Ralph’s Burger & Sandwich Shop provides dinner-inspired classics. For a relaxed outdoor experience, Horse to Water Pool and Bar specializes in casual poolside fare. For a snack or to top off a meal, Emma’s Patisserie and Miss Tilly’s Lollipops provide sweet treats anytime.

Getting There

WEC-Ocala is conveniently located near the major thoroughfares that come through Ocala, and is easily accessible to surrounding airports including Ocala, Gainesville, Orlando and Tampa. WEC-Ocala is also close to beaches and attractions, including Disney, Universal Studios and SeaWorld theme parks, to name a few.

In keeping with its commitment to “Quality. Class. Distinction,” WEC-Ocala’s staff is ready to go above and beyond to make every event a winner. “WEC-Ocala is a multi-faceted facility geared toward an array of events and athletes,” says Gutierrez. “We’re confident that spectators, teams and coaches will enjoy the various opportunities available during an event.”

For more information on how WEC-Ocala can help you plan and implement a successful event, call 352-414-7850 or e-mail ocalasales@wec.net. SDM


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