Tryon International Equestrian Center construction update 

Published 1:05 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Construction continues as Spring Series gets underway 


TRYON—The Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) broke ground in January of 2014. The TIEC held its first show in a dirt ring in 2014 in the midst of all of the construction. A grand opening at TIEC followed a year later in June of 2015.  

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Managing partner Mark Bellissimo made the decision to build the resort in Tryon after fighting politics in Wellington, Florida. Bellissimo owns and operates several companies in Florida that focus on equine sport and developing a resort around the Equestrian community.  Bellissimo is credited with revitalizing Equestrian Sport in Palm Beach County and for heavily investing in the development and growth of the industry. In 2014 Bellissimo said that he would not re-invest in Wellington until the atmosphere changed and the political leaders wanted to build rather than dismantle their future.  The Equestrian Sport industry in Florida was suffering because of overpriced entry fees and spectator fees, according to Bellissimo. One thing that Bellissimo is known for is bringing in the carousel and offering a variety of free spectator events to make equestrian sport more accessible to the masses.  

Director of Public Relations and Marketing for TIEC, Michelle Yelton, is working to prepare TIEC for their first Saturday Night Lights event of the season on May 4. 

“We are a yearround venue, roughly 33 weeks of competition this year across multiple competitions and disciplines,” Yelton said.  “We really try to embrace the nonequestrian spectatorswe do a lot of free spectator events that help draw in the non-riders or owner spectators.”  

The Saturday Night Lights event is a free public event where spectators are invited to watch a free equine show. It changes each weekend, and spectators can enjoy the vendors and activities at the resort.  

“All of the activities are free; free music, admission, parking and a few other activities,” Yelton said. By bringing people here through the free events we are exposing the public to the equestrian competition, that will help grow interest in the sport as a whole. 

“No matter the level of (spectators) experience we want to cater to all people that love horses,” Yelton said. “This is also a resort, the benefit for guests and competitors is that they can come here and have access to many amenities that they can’t get at other equestrian venues.” 

Construction projects 

TIEC currently has approximately 200 beds on site to house and sleep guests but the resort plans to expand that with the addition of two hotels and more RV/camper spaces. TIEC is a resort first so all of the cabins, camper spaces, and other amenities onsite are open to the public to rent or visit.  

Sharon Decker, the COO and VP of the Carolinas Operation outlined some of the changes that spectators will see during the Spring Series.  

“We are finishing up the covered arena right now, and the International Pavilion by the George Morris arena,” Decker said. “We are completing both of those facilities first; those are our highest priority.”  

After finishing the covered arena and pavilion, Decker said that the construction crews will focus their attention on the parking areas around the main showground.  Once these projects are finished, Decker said that work would continue on the East Pavilion.  

2019 marks the fifth season that TIEC has hosted Equestrian events and already have 33 weeks of shows scheduled for the year. TIEC will be hosting more than 42 different events during that time with a wide assortment of equestrian disciplines.  

Decker said that the completion of the covered arena will change the way that TIEC is able to host events. The covered arena is the first building that visitors see when they drive through the main gate.  

“After the covered arena is finished, we will have 13 arenas on the property,” Decker said. “Once that is finished (covered arena) it will provide us the opportunity to have several activities going on at once. We have extended that building to be almost twice the length of the original size.” 

The covered arena will also allow TIEC to host events during the Winter Season for the first time 

“This will be the first year that we offer shows in December and February thanks to that covered arena,” Decker said.  

The new covered arena will increase the number of permanent stables on the property to 1,300, with the option to add temporary stables if necessary.  

A huge part of the winter renovation and construction process came following the 2018 World Equestrian Games (WEG). Water draining into the barns and stables was an issue. TIEC is in the process of installing a new system of concrete and rubber pads at the end of the barn aisles to prevent water from accumulating at the entryways and to keep the aisles drier and cleaner in the future. Another area of the barns that was updated was in the wash stalls and muck stalls. The areas were formerly filled with gravel and were problematic to use and to clean 

TIEC has poured concrete into the problem areas and deep cleaned barns.  

Two of the biggest projects were re-staining and painting the barns and the fences around the property. TIEC officials said that every barn has been re-stained or re-painted and that every stall, tack room and fan in each barn has been thoroughly deep cleaned to prepare for the 2019 events. Nearly 5 miles of fencing around the property was painted during the winter, which includes all warm-up rings, bridle paths, and fencing along the highway corridors. TIEC took feedback from WEG and other events to redesign some areas to provide optimal functionality for competitors and TIEC staff. A large portion of the metal railing along the spectator viewing areas was also replaced during the winter renovations.  

Along with the renovations to the property, guests of Saturday Night Lights will notice a rebranding of some of the vendor cabins surrounding the George Morris arena.  The resort includes a total of 1,600 acres with six operating restaurants that are open year round to the public. In addition to those restaurants, a few new vendors will be opening for the first time during the Saturday Night Lights event on May 4. The Tryon Arcade is a new vendor cabin that will have games as well as pool and foosball for the younger crowd. Jennifer’s Creamier will be opening for the first time as well on Saturday, May 4.  

Decker said that one of the biggest changes is that there will be an artist cabin that features equestrian artists from Tryon. The artists will rotate and will be in the cabin actively painting and working to allow visitors the opportunity to see the artists at work. The artist cabin will begin featuring the Tryon equestrian artists on May 10. 

Decker also said that TIEC has continued to make improvements to Cleghorn Gun Club and the golf course.  

“Basically, we are building a resort around an equestrian center. For years, resorts have been built around golf. We are doing that but for an equestrian center,” Decker said. “Keeping the events open to the public is a huge emphasis for TIEC and our vision. We are growing the amount of equestrian sport in the area and the number of people interested in it. 

“We have done a lot of maintenance on the barns and made a lot of improvements from a competitor’s standpoint. We appreciate the participation from the community and the growing (equestrian) sport in Polk County. We invite people to come and visit TIEC and the towns around us. The surrounding towns in this area have been fantastic at welcoming visitors and helping to encourage tourism.”  

TIEC will be hosting the Carolina Classis on May 8 in Indoor Arena. The indoor arena will not be completed before the event, but TIEC staff said that the competition arena and spectator seating would be ready for the event.  TIEC will be focusing time and resource on finishing the current construction projects before working on the hotels.  

Elevator shafts were placed onto the proposed location for one of the hotels last year prior to the WEG.  

By Samuel Robinson