Planning was key for smooth Polk County operations during WEG

Published 8:00 am Thursday, September 27, 2018

TIEC estimates 220,000 to 225,000 attended recently completed games

COLUMBUS — The World Equestrian Games may have had a few glitches the first couple of days, and bad luck with a hurricane bringing rain, but for Polk County officials, things went smoothly.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday night and heard from Emergency Management Director and Fire Marshal Bobby Arledge and Tryon International Equestrian Center Chief Operating Officer Sharon Decker. 

Bobby Arledge

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Arledge said Hurricane Florence brought 4.8 inches of rain to the Saluda area, which was the most in the county, with TIEC receiving just less than 3 inches of rain.

“We dodged a good bullet there,” Arledge said. “We were really worried about the 176 area with the mudslides we had last time [in May].”

Arledge said there were 467 power outages during Florence, but those outages were restored and the area also had some trees down.

On WEG, Arledge said it was a long two weeks, with one week being rainy and muddy, and the next week being hot and humid.

He said there were 215 employees per day working the games for public safety. He also said a lot of resources were deployed to the East Coast for the hurricane. He said the county lost a lot of help, including the MED1 mobile hospital, North Carolina Highway Patrol officers and firefighters from different counties.

“Even at one time at the command post, it was just me and one other person,” Arledge said.

Incidents at the games were minimal, Arledge said. 

Sharon Decker

Arledge said most incidents were heat related, and there were very few law enforcement incidents, with most of those being on closing night Sunday, when people “got a little rowdy.”

Arledge said there were some allergic reactions and one cardiac arrest, but emergency responders did CPR and, the last time he checked, the man was recovering.

Road congestion was also minimal, Arledge said, with the endurance race day the only day the county had any issues with roads.

“A tremendous job was done by all the public safety agencies,” Arledge said. “Coordination with federal and state agencies was top notch. We had meetings every day, twice a day.”

Arledge also thanked the 15 counties that helped cover the games.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson spoke of how smooth the games were on Polk County’s side of things.

“The planning really showed,” Gasperson said. “With the number of people and traffic and everything, it was remarkably smooth.”

Decker said estimates are that 220,000 to 225,000 people attended the event. She said the highest ticket sales were for Sunday, Sept. 16, which was the day that had to be canceled because of the hurricane. She said the last weekend was very successful, with about 30 percent of the weekend tickets being sold on-site.

“[Sunday] was our biggest attended day,” Decker said.

She said it is estimated that 22,000 people attended on closing day Sunday.

Decker also thanked the county and all the volunteers for their work on the games.

“This whole thing was a team effort,” Decker said.

Gasperson also said the steeplechase track where people parked is a disaster, and asked if that would be replanted.

Decker said the steeplechase will be held there next year, saying it will be replanted.