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USPA’s Matthew Baran Helps Market The Sport Of Polo To The Public

USPA’s Matthew Baran Helps Market The Sport Of Polo To The Public

Over the past several years, the United States Polo Association has built a talented communications department that is dedicated to marketing the sport of polo and highlighting USPA tournaments for members and fans. With his successful track record promoting the Flagler Museum in the Town of Palm Beach, Matthew Baran was brought on board, rising to the director of communications.

Baran, a native Floridian born and raised in Jupiter, works out of the USPA offices on Lake Worth Road next to the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame, spearheading an ambitious program promoting polo across the nation.

“We built a state-of-the-art web site focusing on tournaments and presenting polo like other major sports. This was accomplished through interactive scoreboards, a tournament calendar and dedicated web pages with rosters, history, video highlights and much more,” Baran explained. “The department continually pushes to elevate coverage across all media platforms and outlets, highlighting team and player statistics, amazing plays, player quotes and horse information.”

This includes a wide array of streaming video content.

“In 2017, we created the USPA Polo Network, livestreaming more than 125 polo matches throughout the year for free, across uspolo.org, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter,” Baran said. “All games can also be viewed on-demand through our YouTube channel or uspolo.org/video.”

When not working, Baran enjoys surfing or swimming at the beach, playing tennis, visiting local art shows, and hanging out with his family and friends.

“Ironically, I do not ride or play polo,” Baran said. “I grew up playing baseball, basketball and football, and received a scholarship to play baseball. My background in sports has helped with re-branding our digital platforms to cover polo like other major sports.”

While not a polo player, Baran is passionate about the sport with deep roots in Wellington. “Polo is one of the world’s oldest team sports that can be enjoyed by all ages, male or female,” Baran said. “There are approximately 270 USPA member clubs throughout the United States, and about 15 here in the Wellington area.”

It is an impressive sport, and he is certainly a polo fan.

“I continue to be mesmerized every time I watch polo,” Baran said. “The athleticism and hand-eye coordination of the professional players is something everyone must witness live. I would put it on par with hitting a 95-plus mph fastball in baseball, which has been described as the most difficult feat in sports. Players are riding flat out on the most agile horses in the world, bumping into other players and horses, all the while hitting a small ball through a goal with a bamboo mallet. The incredible precision in the goals and team play is what continually makes me revere the sport and push to get polo out to the masses.”

Baran believes that Wellington provides the opportunity to witness one of the most epic team sports anywhere in the world, and he invites area residents to, “get out and experience something new.”

To bring in more players to the sport, the USPA launched a “Learn to Play” campaign, which provides a platform for all member clubs to have a strong presence at uspolo.org.

“Whether you are interested in picking up a mallet and learning to play, or would like to watch some of the top players and horses compete in a USPA tournament, you can visit uspolo.org for more information,” Baran said. “And if you are in the Wellington area, you have to come watch a match of the Gauntlet of Polo at the International Polo Club Palm Beach. The level of competition and horses is unrivaled anywhere in the United States.”

The Gauntlet of Polo is comprised of America’s most historic and prestigious tournaments: the C.V. Whitney Cup, the USPA Gold Cup and the U.S. Open Polo Championship. “There is $1 million on the line, and the tournament series features 16 teams and more than 800 horses competing for a chance to be crowned Gauntlet Champion,” Baran said.

All the work that Baran is doing is directly in line with the longstanding mission of the USPA.

“The USPA was organized and exists for the purposes of promoting the game of polo; coordinating the activities of its member clubs and registered players; arranging and supervising polo tournaments, competitions and games; and providing rules, handicaps and conditions for those tournaments, competitions and games, including the safety and welfare of participants and mounts,” Baran explained.

Founded in 1890, the USPA is the national governing body for the sport of polo. With thousands of individual members, the USPA oversees 40 national tournaments. For more information, visit www.uspolo.org or call (800) 232-8772.

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Public Works Director Bruce Wagner Brings Winning Attitude To Wellington’s Staff

Public Works Director Bruce Wagner Brings Winning Attitude To Wellington’s Staff

Bruce Wagner, director of the Public Works Department for the Village of Wellington, believes that “without your team, you’re nothing.” This phrase is a mantra for everything, from his love of sports to his management style.

“I started out in the Parks & Recreation Department as the supervisor of the grounds,” Wagner recalled. “Then I went to operations manager of grounds and facilities, but the last 10 and half years, I’ve been here at the Public Works Department.”

His journey to Wellington was unusual for administrators working in the government sector. Wagner, a native of New York’s Long Island, spent most of his career working in construction and various forms of landscaping.

“I did have a partnership with my brother in landscaping for about 15 years. I went to college for commercial art, believe it or not, and then I started to gravitate toward landscape design,” Wagner explained. “Then I worked for a lighting company in Long Island and took over running the grounds.”

In 1996, Wagner and his wife moved to Florida for the first time. They chose Orlando, where he landed a position that ended up being a dream job — working for Walt Disney World.

“I was like a test project for Disney at that time. HR hired me directly off the street, which was not normal for them. It was a match made in heaven. I loved it; loved everything about it,” Wagner said. “Most landscapers don’t know all the characters and stuff about the park, but I did. I jumped in with both feet.”

A few years later, however, the Wagners moved back to New York to be closer to family and had their first child. Shortly after his daughter turned one, they moved back to Florida and brought the family with them this time. Living in Coconut Creek, Wagner started the next chapter of his career with humble beginnings.

“I worked for Home Depot in the outside garden area,” Wagner said. “It’s amazing the amount of people you start meeting. After a couple of months, I went to work for a management company.”

But 2004 was a difficult hurricane season. It meant Wagner was spending more and more time managing properties and away from home. His wife began researching positions further north and found an opening with the Village of Wellington.

“Within two weeks, I was hired, and I’ve never looked back. It has been a great experience coming here,” Wagner said. “We all care about each other. It is definitely a family because you spend all this time with each other. Communication is the key, and it has never been better.”

After nearly 14 years with the Village of Wellington, Wagner has found a second version of the happiest place on earth.

At approximately 46 square miles, Wellington is about the same size as Walt Disney World. Some days it’s like Tomorrow Land, some days it’s like Fantasy Land and some days it’s like Adventure Land. It’s never dull. “There is something new every day in public works, and we love it,” Wagner said.

The Public Works Department is crucial to the mission of Wellington.

“Public works takes care of the infrastructure, including roadways, canals, pumping stations, all the maintenance in any park, lights on the fields, mosquito control and all of the miles and miles of horse trails,” Wagner said. “We also do set up, break down and cleanup after large events. It’s always different here. We have 108 employees, and everyone pulls on that rope.”

Some of his proudest accomplishments for the department include twice earning American Public Works Association (APWA) accreditation, and the role played in the Parks & Recreation Department’s certification by the Commission for Accreditation of Parks and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA).

“We are one of maybe nine entities in the whole state to get both of those awards,” Wagner noted.

Aside from pride over his work and team, Wagner also has a strong sense of family. Married for 29 years, Wagner and his wife are raising two children with a sense of love for sharing adventures.

“We are obsessed with snorkeling,” Wagner said. “It’s so much fun to go as a family. We love cruising and have been to Barbados, Bequia, St. Thomas and San Juan.”

Sports also plays a big part in Wagner’s everyday life and philosophy.

“I’m more of a player’s coach. I like to watch what’s going on before I really have to say something. There are so many times you can look back and say, ‘You guys did a great job,’ and don’t have to constantly tell them what to do. Let them go out and experience things. We all make mistakes, but if they can correct them right away, it’s phenomenal. I love this crew,” Wagner said. “Nothing is better than when you can grow your own, bring them up and keep them. When you can keep them, that’s a good thing.”

Wagner’s team mentality, combined with his respect for both administration and the crew he supervises, makes for an environment set up for sustainable success. From succession plans to cross training and preparation for the future in Wellington, the foundation keeps coming back to one thing — “without your team, you’re nothing.” Wagner sees a bright future filled with opportunity for his team at Wellington’s Public Works Department.

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