Game of kings finds home at Pink Palace when beach polo comes to Don Cesar

ST. PETE BEACH — It seems only appropriate that the game of kings will be played at the Pink Palace. 

Or, in other words, two days of polo will be coming to the Don CeSar’s famed private beachfront Saturday-Sunday, Jan. 11-12.

Teams comprised of professional and amateur players will bring their mallets and horses to the beach for two matches each day for an event that organizers at the hotel hope will become an annual attraction. 

“We’re really excited to bring something new to the community and really engage everyone in a little bit more cultural beach focus,” said Todd Gehrke, director of sales and marketing at the Don CeSar. “We obviously have this amazing stretch of beach and are really excited to use it for something different and allow the community to come and share that with us.”

Here are some things to know about the event.

1. When will it get underway? 

On Jan. 11, 3-on-3 matches will be held at 2 and 4 p.m. They will each include four chukkers, or quarters for those of you who don’t speak polo, that are seven minutes each and feature professional teams and scoring. On Jan. 12, the matches will be held at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

2. Do I need tickets?

Tickets are needed and can be obtained in advance at

Standing-only general admission is free, but no chairs, outside food, beverages or coolers are allowed. Bar access and food will be available, however.

Paid tickets — $30 for one day or $50 for both days — include a seated viewing area and cash bar cocktail service. All viewing areas are first come-first served.

Tickets do not include parking. Paid parking is available but will be limited, so you might need to park in the Pass-A-Grille area or at the Dolphin Village shopping plaza and take a walk or catch the trolley. 

3. Who’s saddling up?

The DI Polo club based out of Plant City is also helping to organize the event, providing players from all over the state and southeast, Gehrke said.

“The players are a mix of professional and amateur, so each team will have a professional leader of the team and then a couple of amateur players or possibly an additional professional player,” he said. 

4. Don’t know anything about polo? No problem.

Gehrke said an announcer will be providing commentary so everyone can get a sense of what’s happening, but for many the game will be secondary to appreciating the horses and athletes. 

“It’s really just all about watching the horses run and watching the players, who are extremely athletic, get after it,” he said. “They are holding the horse in one hand and a huge mallet in the other, swinging that thing, hitting the ball 70 or 80 yards. That’s pretty amazing.”

5. Horses on the beach?

Gehrke said it hasn’t been easy to make it happen, as the event has been in the works for months.

“It took us quite a while to finish our discussions from a permitting aspect,” he said. “There’s a lot that it takes to permit a couple of days out on the beach, and dealing with the Department of Environmental Protection and all the environmental responsibilities that come into play. We obviously want to maintain a beautiful beach and go through all the precautions needed to do that. So, once we were able to get that all squared away, we worked with the city and put everything in place.”

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