GPL’s Impact Continues To Grow

GPL’s Impact Continues To Grow The Gay Polo League Advances The Goal For Investment In LGBTQ+ Sports

By Jennifer Martinez

Chip McKenney, founder and president of the Gay Polo League (GPL), knew he had created something special when he received a simple, but powerful compliment from the event’s parking lot supervisor at the end of the 2014 International Gay Polo Tournament.

“People arrive happy and leave happier, which is rare,” the supervisor said. “We noticed because we are the first and last group to interact with your attendees.”

McKenney felt the significance. “He was moved to share that,” McKenney recalled. “It showed that the tournament resonated with him in a deeper way.”

This year’s Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament, presented by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, will be held April 6-8 at the National Polo Center-Wellington.

McKenney, a branding expert and president of McKenney Media, knows the tournament’s experience is critical to growth.

Founded in 2006 as the only LGBTQ+ polo organization in the world, GPL is dedicated to producing high-end LGBTQ+ polo events and experiences. McKenney endeavors to unite and celebrate the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies, including polo celebrities, aficionados, sports enthusiasts and the general public. “I wanted GPL to be as inclusive and as far-reaching as it could be,” McKenney said.

His vision has been a formula for success. Since McKenney brought the tournament to Wellington in 2010, attendance has grown to more than 2,500. Sixty-five percent are in-state, and 35 percent come from outside Florida and the United States. An astonishing 80 percent have never attended a polo tournament.

The players have also grown — in diversity and skill. In GPL’s early years, most players were novices. Those players have honed their game, and the league has attracted more experienced players — gay and non-gay — from all over the world. Now, games are “fast and open,” McKenney said.

While the league has evolved, McKenney has stayed true to GPL’s inclusiveness by putting forward only one expectation.

“Anyone who comes on any given day makes it better because they are there,” he said. “You can be a complete novice, and never get out of the walk, and we will welcome you as much as a high-end polo fast champion.”

Fueling GPL’s growth are the high-end sponsors drawn to the tournament’s success and its mission.

Luxury automotive brand Lexus has been the tournament’s title sponsor since 2021. Presenting sponsor Douglas Elliman Real Estate, a company passionate about delivering exceptional experiences, has also been on board since 2021. Both were a perfect match for GPL, believing in the value of inclusiveness by partnering with the league, and appealing to the tournament’s luxury-oriented demographic. The prestige of the brands “speaks volumes about our event and the quality,” McKenney said.

Sponsor of the tournament’s VIP tent every year is Cherry Knoll Farm. Owners and allies Bob and Margaret Duprey, whom McKenney describes as a “fan favorite,” are an example of how all sponsors at every level share a common denominator with the league. “We want to be special, we want to be valued and we want to do good,” McKenney said.

GPL’s growth has also come from the support of the Palm Beach County Sports Commission and the United States Polo Association.

In 2022, GPL was inducted into the Palm Beach Sports Hall of Fame and received the prestigious Palm Beach County Sports Commission “Champion of Equity & Diversity in Sports” award, recognizing its work to create an atmosphere that affirms and supports the understanding and acceptance of all individuals. McKenney received the award during the commission’s 45th hall of fame induction ceremony.

“What made it so meaningful was that we were voted in by non-LGBTQ+ people,” McKenney said. “It reinforced my belief that what we do has value way beyond the people who play on our fields.”

McKenney’s invitation to join the USPA’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee last year was another milestone. He played a significant role in developing the association’s diversity policy, which acknowledges the value of the entire diversity spectrum to sports.

“Sporting organizations are recognizing that diversity enhances the sport, the experience and the events,” McKenney said.

GPL’s partnership with the Village of Wellington, a new tournament sponsor, is another milestone.

Wellington Village Manager Jim Barnes sees how the GPL aligns with advancing the community’s goals, particularly as a Palm Beach County Sports Commission partner.

“The Wellington Village Council has identified sports tourism as a component of what we do here in Wellington,” said Barnes, citing the linkage to the village’s investment in parks and recreation as a key part of building community. “It’s in our DNA.”

Equally important, Barnes noted, is greater support for the LGBTQ+ community. “Sponsoring GPL is another step to being an inclusive community and acknowledging and supporting the members of our community who are here,” he said.

Wellington’s LGBTQ+ inclusiveness is recognized at state and national levels. The village was chosen as the partner and host community for the inaugural Florida state LGBTQ+ Liaison Summit hosted by Florida’s Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services in October 2022. Nationally, the village was awarded the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Municipal Equality Index “All Star” designation. Wellington voluntarily submitted for the nation’s only assessment of LGBTQ+ equality regarding municipal policies, laws and services, scoring 100 out of 100 points in 2021 and 2022.

“We want to be the gold standard,” said Kimberly Gibbons, the village’s HR director and LGBTQ+ liaison. “It’s so important for everyone to chart this path and be open and inclusive, welcome everyone, and make sure everyone feels valued and safe.”

The relationship between the village and GPL began when McKenney was introduced to Barnes and Gibbons through Rand Hoch, founder and president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

Gibbons sees the connection between supporting the GPL’s development and the village’s. “There is a growing body of research that shows an openness to diversity and inclusion is a key element that leads to economic growth,” she said.

Barnes noted the dollars that flow from the tournament into the area’s hotels, restaurants and retail stores, as well as the supporting equestrian businesses and services utilized by the GPL.

“There is a direct economic benefit to the local community. We have a local case study right here in our backyard,” Barnes said. “It’s 12 years of success and growing.”

McKenney has his sights set on continued growth by making the tournament a destination for LGBTQ+ tourism. “We are well on our way, and we’re going to keep going,” he said.

True to his inclusivity mission, McKenney recognizes all who helped GPL get this far.

“A lot of people over the years have touched and improved this event,” he said. “I really owe the success to everyone.”

Learn more about the Gay Polo League at