As the summer gives way to cooler temperatures, the equestrian world eagerly awaits the upcoming 2024 winter season in Wellington.
At the National Polo Center (NPC), fields and facilities have been upgraded in preparation for hosting American polo’s most prestigious tournaments and events.
The 161-acre property, acquired by the United States Polo Association (USPA) in June 2022, continues to undergo transformative changes, promising an exceptional experience for both polo enthusiasts and the public. Top-notch facilities include six regulation-sized polo fields, a grandstand, restaurant, café, clubhouse, swimming pool, gym and tennis courts, making it much more than just a hub for world-class equestrian competition.
Reflecting on the previous season, the USPA and NPC have initiated numerous improvements to elevate the club and provide visitors with a premium experience. As a result, NPC has restored Field Two to a grass field from the previous arena and plans to install an electronic scoreboard at the field’s south end.
Improvements extend to the facility’s entrance, stadium and parking areas, which have been refinished with a new subsurface, pavement and paint. All five fields are now on a scheduled maintenance program and receive extensive fertilizing, watering and aerating throughout the year.
As Palm Beach County’s largest equestrian center, NPC is keeping sustainability at the forefront of its mission and has adopted eco-friendly practices, such as water conservation and waste reduction, to preserve and protect Wellington’s natural beauty.
On the hospitality side, renovations include an expanded kitchen in the Mallet Grill, refreshed floors, refurbished bar areas and upgraded dining rooms. A new café by the tennis courts and new paint in the fitness center, spa and bathrooms provide a fresh feel for patrons. The pool, spa, fitness center and tennis courts will now be open year-round, offering more extensive benefits to members. The pool area near the Mallet Grill has been expanded to include a private dining space and cocktail lounge with 100 additional seats. The 7th Chukker, previously exclusive to members, is now open to the public six nights a week, broadening the club’s appeal and event hosting capabilities.
With a new stage set, NPC is gearing up to host an exhilarating series of tournaments and events. The 2024 season kicks off with the Continental Cup (Dec. 31 to Jan. 7), which promises an electric atmosphere for spectators and a unique New Year’s celebration. It will combine the festive spirit of the holiday season with the thrill of world-class polo. Spectators can expect a dynamic blend of sport and celebration as teams vie for the early-season title. The Continental Cup is also the start of the NPC 16-Goal Championship (formerly the Florida Circuit 16-Goal Super-Series) and serves as the season opener on U.S. Polo Assn. Field One.
The NPC 16-Goal Championship series consists of four qualifying tournaments — the Joe Barry Memorial (Jan. 11-28), the Ylvisaker Cup (Jan. 26 to Feb. 24), the Iglehart Cup and the Outback Cup — with each winning team advancing to the NPC 16-Goal Championship, set for April 10-14.
The U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship, now held throughout the month of February (Feb. 3-18), will be the featured Sunday match and showcase women’s high-goal polo on U.S. Polo Assn. Field One. Additionally, the debut of the National President’s Cup, at the NPC venue and under a new format, will unite some of the most talented 8-goal teams in the nation when it is held April 12-21.
The season’s most anticipated competition, the Gauntlet of Polo, runs from February to April and features top teams and players from around the world as they contest for the coveted C.V. Whitney Cup, USPA Gold Cup and U.S. Open Polo Championship trophies.
The Gauntlet of Polo challenges teams to win all three stages in a single season. Starting with the C.V. Whitney Cup, followed by the USPA Gold Cup and concluding with the U.S. Open Polo Championship, the Gauntlet promises intense competition and captivating narratives while merging polo tradition with intensity.
The C.V. Whitney Cup (Feb. 9-25) presents the initial test and separates serious contenders from the rest. The USPA Gold Cup (Feb. 23 to March 24) intensifies the competition further, with the possibility of a Gauntlet contender emerging if the C.V. Whitney Cup winner also secures victory. Serving as the pinnacle of North America’s high-goal season, the U.S. Open Polo Championship (March 22 to April 21) is the most coveted title in American polo and promises the winning team a prize money purse and an opportunity to engrave their names on the historic perpetual trophy.
NPC also offers a comprehensive entertainment experience that extends far beyond polo. Visitors can expect options that include everything from fine dining experiences to designer shopping at luxury boutiques. A full-service catering team regularly curates a five-star selection of cuisine for NPC’s brunch menu, a Sunday staple. The center now boasts more than 7,000 square feet of indoor event space, providing the perfect canvas for weddings, corporate retreats, sporting events, fundraising galas and private celebrations.
“We are going from about 25 or 30 events to more than 50 events in the Pavilion, including galas and weddings,” said Tim Gannon, chair of NPC Hospitality Operations Inc. “We’ve been working very hard to animate the polo center.”
The Polo Club at NPC offers a variety of membership opportunities, including social, junior and equestrian memberships, available from Dec. 1, 2023, through April 1, 2024. Club amenities include a 25 percent discount on box seats throughout the season and priority access to special events, such as NPC’s Chef’s Experience Dinner series, private wine dinners and poolside movie nights. Members can attend NPC’s speaker series, which has previously featured guest lecturers such as Olympic gold medalist Laura Kraut and 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso. Club members also receive exclusive access to the swimming pool, private tennis lessons, yoga and Pilates classes, and specialized spa services, such as massages and facials.
Even after completing renovations and site improvements, the team behind NPC’s recent developments has plenty more in store.
“We made a lot of progress in one year,” USPA President Charles Smith said. “We worked through the whole property to make it something that the USPA membership and the polo world would be proud to drive into. That has been a real focus and continues to be a focus.”
Where sport, community and tradition converge, the National Polo Center wants to ensure that the Wellington staple remains accessible to locals and stays at the forefront of the polo world, offering unparalleled experiences for players and fans alike.
To learn more about the 2024 schedule, ticketing options and VIP experiences, visit www.nationalpolocenter.com.