Saturday, September 20, 2008

WEG 2010: The Hand on the Reins - Full Article

WEG 2010 Foundation's chair John Long discusses preparations

September 19, 2008

by Tom Martin

Since former World Games 2010 Foundation CEO Jack Kelly resigned for personal reasons in July, John Long, chair of the Foundation's Board of Directors, has become both a public face and guiding force behind the planning efforts for the 16-day event that is now two years away. Long, who serves as CEO for the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), recently returned from the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong, where he participated in leading the U.S. Equestrian Team. Back in Kentucky, the Shelbyville resident and former chief operating officer of Churchill Downs is setting his sights on preparing Lexington to welcome its global equestrian audience in 2010.

He recently discussed those preparations with Business Lexington editor-in-chief Tom Martin. The complete interview is available by clicking on the podcast below.

TM: With Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games now just two years away, what's been accomplished since it was announced that the event was coming to Lexington and what challenges remain ahead?

JL: A lot has been accomplished. I think if you look at the Horse Park and if you've driven out there recently, you can see that it is a giant construction zone — with the new indoor arena and the outdoor stadium literally gone, and driving on dirt roads and cones everywhere to make sure that you don't go off the road. So you can see, one of the big changes over the last years has happened at the Horse Park. Now many of those changes would have happened anyway. But they've been accelerated and made even more important as a result of the Games coming in 2010.

I think organizationally much has been accomplished. We've got a first-class management team. We've got some of the best consultants in the world that are used to working in big game environments: everything from security, traffic, parking to planning. We have a hospitality consultant that we brought onboard a couple of months ago who is just finishing up work in Beijing. We've identified the consultant that will be working with us on the opening and closing ceremonies. He did the Pan Am Games in Rio this past year, and he's also just coming back from Beijing, will be doing the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010. So we've really, I think, been able to round out the organization with a very sophisticated and experienced batch of consultants, and then our cracker-jack management team within. I think we're really, really well prepared to enter into this last two years.

TM: How do the improvements of the Horse Park inform the future and what might be happening there?

JL: The United States Equestrian Federation itself does not host or operate any kind of competitions. Rather it is the national governing body of the sport which licenses many of the competitions which occur in the country. So when we look at the Horse Park, we see all kinds of opportunities which did not exist before, as a result of the construction of this new indoor stadium, predominantly. The Horse Park has not been able to be competitive with places like Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Albuquerque for many of the breed and Western shows that occur over the winter months, simply because the Horse Park hasn't had a temperature-controlled facility to host them. So with this new arena ... it will be able to bid and compete for those competitions that they have not been able to chase before. The outdoor arena to have 6,500 or so permanent seats — expandable, which we will be doing for the Games, to in excess of 30,000 — will be another great opportunity to bring events that either were too small or too large to the Horse Park during the summer months.

And maybe the biggest thing of all to the horse lover and to the competitor is the quality of the footing that has been put into both the Walnut Arena, one of the current training arenas where there are competitions that are held, and that will be going into the new outdoor. It is state of the art. It's as good as anything that the Olympics have seen, and that kind of footing will be here at the Horse Park as well. So all of those things, with the possibility of new restaurants and new hospitality, new entry, new signage, it's going to look like a brand-new Horse Park ... at this time a year from now.

TM: Another big element that will have to be constructed during this time is the endurance course. Tell us about that.


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