The Tryon International Equestrian Center is bringing a different type of polo to North Carolina this Saturday.
Gladiator polo is a fast-paced, more intense version of normal arena polo.
“It’s like a hockey game,” event manager Gates Gridley said. “If you like hockey, you’ll like gladiator polo.”
Gridley said the event aims to make polo more accessible to audiences.
“We’ve simplified and eliminated rules that kept arena polo from being spectator friendly,” he said. “If you’ve never been to a game before, you can easily pick it up.”
General admission to the 6 p.m. event is free. Gridley said there will be entertainment for all ages, with “gladiator games” and pony rides for children, and a beer festival for adults.
“It has the same vibe as any other type of professional sports league,” he said. “It’s a fun family event, as well as a date night.”
Corporations like Coca-Cola and Circle K, along with the Greenville-Spartanburg airport, are among the sponsors.
The sponsorships have allowed TIEC to bring in professional polo players for the match. Santi Torres, the youngest player to win the U.S. Open Polo Championship and subject of the documentary “The Polo Kid,” is among the players.
Event founder Mark Bellissimo said he hopes gladiator polo will inspire the creation of local professional polo teams in surrounding cities such as Asheville, Greenville and Charlotte.
“Maybe we can start some local teams and get some players from the area to develop the skill,” he said. “But in the short term, we are bringing players in.”