Held in conjunction with the XII FIP World Polo Championship, the USPA Fall Committee and Board of Governors Meetings took place virtually from October 17-28 and in-person from November 3-6 at the USPA National Polo Center – Wellington (NPC) in Wellington, Florida. Serving as the highlight of the nearly two weeks of conferences, the Board of Governors Meeting on Saturday, November 5 offered updates and developments from several key committees within the USPA, including presentations from NPC Hospitality Operations Inc. and NPC Polo Operations LLC on the future of NPC.
The meeting began with a warm welcome from Chairman Stewart Armstrong and brief reports from former Secretary Charles Smith, Treasurer Steven Rudolph, and the Meketa Group on behalf of the Finance Committee. These reports were followed by an update from J. Michael Prince on behalf of USPA Global Licensing, which noted the U.S. Polo Assn.’s standout year to date, expecting $48 million in revenue. Originally predicted to net $17.5 million in royalties for the USPA, the updated forecast is now $24 million. 2023 USPA royalties are currently planned conservatively at $19 million.
USPA Chairman Stewart Armstrong and Chief Operating Officer (COO) & In-House Counsel Chris Green.
Prince also shared that USPA Global Licensing has entered a two-year deal with ESPN, ensuring six games will be broadcasted live, including the three finals of the Gauntlet of Polo, the U.S. Open Women’s Championship, the D1 Men’s and Women’s National Intercollegiate Championships and a national arena match.
Below are additional highlights from the Board of Governors Meeting.
NPC HOSPITALITY OPERATIONS INC.
Tim Gannon and Craig Callen represented NPC Hospitality Operations Inc. (“Hospitality Ops”), which operates the hospitality assets at NPC and the social club known as The Polo Club at NPC. They discussed many of the projects that are ongoing in those areas. In need of serious renovations, there are several projects aimed at updating the hospitality facilities, including attending to the air conditioning system, expanding, and modernizing the Mallet Grille kitchen, bringing in new culinary talent, investing more in catering and uplifting the experience and what people can expect from the hospitality assets and the Polo Club. Callen added that a lot of work is being done to improve the corporate governance of Hospitality Ops, creating clear standards of practice and enforcing them. The communications and marketing strategy for NPC was also discussed, noting the Polo Club’s goal of having 340 social members by the beginning of next year. The current membership stands at 292.
NPC POLO OPERATIONS LLC
Charles Smith, the Advisory Board Chairman of NPC Polo Operations LLC (“Polo Ops”), relayed important updates about Polo Ops, detailing a progress report of the ongoing polo-related renovations. The reinstallation of Field 2 is well underway. The former Gladiator Arena has been removed and Field 2 has been graded and sprigged with TifTuf bermuda grass. The fieldside swales and field irrigation systems have been completed and a spectator area has been constructed between Field 2 and Field 3 that is 150 feet wide. Similarly, the LLC is working to revitalize the stadium in a multi-phase renovation project scheduled around the 2023 winter season schedule. That project focuses on enhancing the experience for spectators, Polo Club members, season box and ticketholders, and members of the polo community. Renovations are also underway to the parking areas and main entrance to improve ingress, egress and drainage.
USPA UMPIRES, LLC REPORT
Great Plains Circuit Governor and Umpires LLC Chairman Michael Carney highlighted Umpires LLC’s recent leadership changes, including Fergus Gould’s appointment as Executive Director of Umpires LLC and Joe Henderson’s appointment as Assistant Director.
Executive Director of USPA Services Division Carlucho Arellano.
POLO DEVELOPMENT LLC
Chrys Beal, Chair of the National Youth Tournament Series (NYTS) subcommittee explained a 2023 Tournament Condition change for NYTS, reverting all shootouts to the regular outdoor procedure as outlined in USPA Outdoor Rule 14.d.
Liz Brayboy gave a brief report on the Intercollegiate/Interscholastic (I/I) Program, focusing on three changes that will be made to the I/I Tournament Conditions for 2023. First, teams will be allowed to substitute on another team’s timeout without using their timeout that half. Second, coaches and high access individuals will be required to acknowledge and be bound by the USPA’s Youth Protection Policy. Third, Interscholastic teams will have a deadline of Thursday, December 1, to submit their first scoresheet.
Lastly, Polo Development Initiative (PDI) Chairman Bob McMurtry discussed the revised PDI guidelines, namely that funding priority will go to projects that promote long-term investment in the sport of polo, including expenditures for capital improvement, fixed assets, and club infrastructure. There will be no maximum award threshold and evaluation of grant applications will be made on a case-by case basis. Applications are to be submitted online only and the deadline for completed primary applications is Tuesday, January 31, 2023. Read the revised PDI guidelines at the link below.2023 PDI GUIDELINES
Chairman Tom Gose explained a number of changes to the USPA Outdoor and Arena Rules and Tournament Conditions for 2023. A detailed summary of these changes will be forthcoming.
Tournament Committee Chairman Stephen Orthwein Jr. detailed the Florida Circuit 16-goal Series & Championship that will begin this January and noted how traction is gaining for a similar 8-goal edition of the Series, which was recently approved by the Polo Ops Advisory Board. Clubs will host qualifying 8-goal rounds and the competition will culminate in a championship played at NPC.
A new national tournament was added to the 2023 schedule – the USPA National Arena Bronze Cup. The tournament’s handicap level will be decided by the host club, but it is not to be less than 0 goals and it is not to exceed 6 goals.
Minor adjustments will be made for 2023 to the Bridge to High Goal (B2HG) Initiative and the Tournament Support Program (TSP). Previously, if a member club used B2HG, it could not qualify for TSP as well. With the new changes in place, clubs will be able to receive up to two TSPs while participating in B2HG. Another update to TSP is that all women’s events now qualify for TSP. In the past, the program only covered women’s tournaments played at 20-goals and below.
The USPA PTF Seniors Tournament and the Museum of Polo Hall of Fame Challenge Cup will no longer require tournament hosting fees, regardless of whether or not the host club is using TSP. Both tournaments are also available in the arena and outdoor.
Governor-at-Large Cecelia Cochran and Pacific Northwest Circuit Governor Sheryl Sick.
As the meeting came to a close, Chairman Armstrong thanked and recognized the outgoing Governors and introduced the USPA’s newly elected officials. They are as follows:
Chairman: Stewart Armstrong
President: Charles Smith
Secretary: Chrys Beal
Treasurer: Steven Rudolph
Dr. Michael Manno
Stephen Orthwein, Jr.
All photos courtesy of ©USPA.