‘Absent a miracle,’ Saratoga polo tradition ending

GREENFIELD – The polo ponies won’t be galloping down the fields at Saratoga Polo this summer. And “absent a miracle,” the club’s attorney said, the financially strapped arena for the sport of kings won’t see any herds of horses beyond that.

“We were not successful in selling the property,” polo attorney Padrick Moore said. “Unless the auction process yields a buyer who wants to invest in polo by April 6, this is the end.”

The death of Saratoga Polo Association has loomed for a while now. The owners Michael Bucci and Jim Rossi, who announced the season cancellation on Thursday night by saying its “future is uncertain,” had high hopes for the 122-year-old polo fields when they purchased the 42-acre property in 2004. They envisioned a resort with private homes with club, spa, hotel, restaurant and permanent event facility – all circling the Whitney Fields.

They sought approvals as a planned unit development and borrowed millions to build. But Rossi said their timing was bad. The 2008 housing crisis kept investors away. Developers came and went. And then this year, Rossi said, the coronavirus outbreak and the downturn of the stock market has foiled his attempts to sell the property for $4.2 million, a price needed to satisfy the club’s creditors.

“There was so much going on,” Rossi said. “Those who expressed an interest in it disappeared. It’s a difficult time to be selling.”

The club’s financial troubles turned serious in March 2018 when Pioneer Savings Bank initiated foreclosure proceedings after the club defaulted on its $3.2 million loan. Moore said that Rossi and Bucci did satisfy the Pioneer Bank loan last fall by assigning it to the guarantor Carver Laraway, owner of the Port of Coeymans. Laraway took over the loan in lieu of the deed. That gave Rossi and Bucci time to sell the property, through RealEstateAuctions.com, which would allow them to pay off the now Laraway loan. Without a sale by April 6, Laraway, who did not return a Times Union phone call to comment, will take possession of the land. At that point, Rossi said he has no idea what the property will become.

“We just don’t know,” Rossi said. “That’s why we don’t have a lot to say about what could happen.”

Rossi said even in good times with fair weather and plenty of patrons, running a polo club is “financially challenging.” But he said he remains an incurable optimist and is hopeful that something can happen by April 6. That was clear in his Thursday evening note to the polo community.

“We are reviewing our options but will communicate more with you should our situation change,” the email reads.

Moore is not so sure it will. He also said the inability to sell the property has been upsetting.

“We were hoping for a buyer that would recognize the value in investing into polo and the property development,” Moore said. “From my perspective we did everything we could, explored every single option we could see to keep polo alive. We still have two weeks. If someone wants to step up, get creative, give them my number. I will happily discussion options for purchase.”

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