Newport Polo hopes governor accepts its proposal that would change the experience for spectators and players

Polo is hoping that a proposal it gave to Governor Raimondo a few days ago will allow the popular event to hold its summer series – but if it does, it will look a lot different than in past years.

According to Agnes Keating, wife of Dan Keating, president of the polo association, Newport Polo has developed a plan it believes complies with the governor’s “safety & social distancing” requirements.

Photo by Frank Prosnitz

The governor had announced earlier this week that large gatherings – hundreds, thousands of people – could not be held this summer. Polo attracts several thousand spectators – most tailgaters – to each of its matches that are scheduled to be held Saturdays, from June 6 to Sept. 26.

The essence of the plan is to minimize human contact. It would require all tickets to be purchased in advance, including for guests in any tailgating spot. It would eliminate general admission seating, and change what is a contact sport into a “no-contact version of the sport (think flag football vs. tackle football.”)

Photo by Frank Prosnitz

The proposal calls for tailgating spaces to be separated by a 10-foot buffer, and the number of people allowed in any tailgating spot limited.

A visit to polo’s website saw each area listed as sold out. 

We asked Agnes Keating several questions to clarify how all this would work:

  • WUN: With a 10-foot buffer, how many tailgating spaces will you lose?
    • AGNES: We will have exactly the same number of Tailgate Spaces that we have always had. The locations may change since some will have to shift around the west and north perimeters of the field.
  • WUN: How will you decide who gets spaces and who doesn’t?
    • AGNES: Only customers that have reserved spaces will get the spaces.
  • WUN: With six-foot distancing, what does that mean for the capacity of a tailgating space?
    • AGNES: The maximum capacity has always been 15, however the new limit will be set by the Governor’s social distancing mandates. 
  • WUN: Has this no-contact polo been tried anywhere?
    • AGNES: We have been piloting this version of polo at our training arena, and we have been advising the USPA on the minor rule adaptations.
  • WUN: Presuming foreign teams will not be coming, how will you fill those slots? Will it just be Newport versus Newport?
    • AGNES: There may be instances of Newport vs. Newport, given that we have over 30 players, as well as other RI teams. If travel restrictions are eased, we could expand the City Series this season, and host international rivals as well.
  • WUN: If the governor agrees with your proposal will you be offering refunds to those who had bought spaces but are uneasy with the new requirements? Will refunds also be offered on annual passes?
    • AGNES: It would be too confusing to have different policies at different stages. We are waiting for the governor’s decision before additional decisions are announced.
  • WUN: If the governor rejects your proposal, I assume you will comply, and if so, will you be offering refunds for tailgating spaces and annual passes?
    • AGNES: We will comply with the governor’s decision and will remain in compliance as we have been all along.

The International Series has always been extremely popular. Teams scheduled for this year are Switzerland, South Africa, England, Argentina, Italy, Jamaica, Ireland, and the Dominican Republic. The city series includes, among teams, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Palm Beach.

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