Marking its one-hundreth season Oak Brook Polo Club announced that it has entered into a long-term agreement with the Village of Oak Brook to move and host polo operations and competition on the Cecil Smith Field (Field #2) beginning summer 2022.
Located on Butler National Golf Club’s practice golf range, the field is widely known in the sport of polo as a historic and beautiful space. Village of Oak Brook and Polo Club founder, Paul Butler, called the field a “masterpiece” in a 1962 Sports Illustrated article. Some of the sport’s most legendary and best players have competed on this storied pitch. Tucked away on The Village of Oak Brook’s Sports Core property, just east of the Oak Brook Bath & Tennis Club and north of the Sports Core Soccer Fields. The field is the highest point in Oak Brook lined with large oak trees older than the field itself.
“The Cecil Smith Field is what Augusta is to golf,” adds Danny O’Leary, Managing Director of Oak Brook Polo Club. “The field is as beautiful as it is legendary, with historic matches won and lost, memorable plays and dramatic defeats. This is a proud moment for polo as Oak Brook’s team returns to its home field.”
The Cecil Smith Field embodies the Village of Oak Brook’s long and storied advocacy for sport and outdoor recreation. It contributes to the Village’s vison of being one of the nation’s best residential, commercial and entertainment destinations.
During the height of the recession in 2009, Oak Brook Polo Club struggled to find an organizer and as a result, the Village agreed to allow target golf greens being installed on the Cecil Smith Field. This forced polo to be played on the Prince of Wales Field (Field #1), which also operates as the Oak Brook Golf Club’s practice range. Even when an organizer returned in 2010, nothing changed.
In the early 1990s, the polo community demoted Field #1 to a practice field due to flooding and costly repairs as a result. The conditions would greatly affect polo for the next 12 years from an unsafe and unrepairable field to numerous canceled matches and seasons.
“The future of polo in Oak Brook greatly depended on the Club’s move to Cecil Smith,” explains Jim Drury, President of Oak Brook Polo Club. “Polo now has a brighter future on and off the field as we continue to work on returning our club to its original glory while ushering in a new generation of fans, players and new ideas. And what greater time for this to occur than on the eve of Oak Brook Polo Club’s centennial anniversary. Village founder, Paul Butler, would be thrilled and overjoyed to see polo return to its ‘masterpiece field’ and original home for Sunday polo festivities.”
Negotiations for polo’s return to Field #2 began in Fall of 2020 with the Village of Oak Brook and Butler National Golf Club and continued for nearly a year until now. On September 14, 2022 the agreement was unanimously approved during a Board of Trustees Meeting.
“Polo exemplifies the tradition of what we call ‘restrained good taste’ in Oak Brook,” explains Edward Tiesenga, Oak Brook Village Trustee. “From a distance it can look effortless, but it’s only due to the great power and grace of the horses combined with the skill and experience of the players. We look forward to hosting polo teams and spectators from all over the world on the reclaimed historic Cecil Smith Field.”
Oak Brook Polo was privatized from the Village of Oak Brook in 2016 and is led and supported by Drury whose passion and ongoing commitment to polo is what has kept the sport alive in Chicagoland for so long. It is one of the nation’s oldest polo clubs in operation today and the fourth oldest sports property in Chicago.
With many iterations over the years, the first season dates back to 1922 when Polo visionary Paul Butler first established the Oak Brook Polo Club. He expanded his polo operation to fourteen fields, plus built the necessary horse stables to serve the visiting teams. Eventually, Oak Brook became one of the “polo capitals” of the world with Butler’s son, famed producer Michael Butler, and daughter, philanthropist Jorie Butler Kent, acting as the club’s stewards through the years. The summer polo seasons were not only the stomping ground for celebrities and notables alike for decades but also the destination for American polo players and enthusiasts. Oak Brook was often referred to as “The Town That Polo Built.”
Oak Brook Polo Club is a member of Chicago Polo a collective, cooperative effort of eight USPA Member Clubs (Las Brisas Polo Club, Arranmore Farm and Polo Club, Morgan Creek Polo Club, Chicago International Polo, Barrington Hills Polo Club, Blackberry Polo Club, Peoria/Bettendorf Polo Club), with a mission of growing and developing the sport of polo in the great Chicagoland area and establishing itself as a regional asset for the Central Circuit.
The 2022 season and centennial anniversary kicks off on Sunday, June 26, 2022 on the Cecil Smith Field. Multiple events and activities are planned to commemorate the landmark, including the return of the prestigious “polo ball,” which is scheduled to take placed at the end of the season.
Photos courtesy of Oak Brook Historical Society, Butler Family and Kraml Family. OAK BROOK POLO CLUB