Corry and Ken saw this article in the Washington Post today, so all credits and images are those of the respective owners. The full article can be found here. Written by Deborah Acosta | Photographs by Sydney Walsh for The Wall Street Journal
Before I share some of the article, I wanted to add a few comments. First, WEF and WEC can coexist to make South Florida one of the great dedicated horse regions of the world. And secondly, we must contribute a lot of success of WEC Ocala to Roby Roberts (son) and especially Mary Roberts (wife), not realized in the article.
Also, as you may know, with great sadness, we heard of the passing of Larry Roberts, fondly known as "Senior," who was a driving force in the trucking industry and, through his wife and family, a pioneer in equine waste management, reducing waste to pellets and building the fabulous WEC Ocala. His wife Mary, family, and hundreds of dedicated staff were and remain instrumental in creating and running "WEC," The World Equestrian Center in Ohio and now Ocala. Equally important is Wellington and ESP ( Equine Sports Productions) and "WEF" (The Winter equestrian festival) owned by Global Equestrian group out of Europe that is currently funding the grand expansion of WEF to be the premier Fl. destination.
Each will rally for the top position, naturally, but together South Florida will reign supreme and instead of being "rivals," should be seen as becoming the cornerstone of the elite equine entertainment industry in South Florida.
As you may know, the equine industry in this region alone annually produces and inadequately disposes of around 400,000 tons of stall residual waste bedding ( wood, fecal matter, hay and grass). At HiPoint, we are addressing this issue head-on by building multiple state-of-the-art facilities in the heart of these locations that will recycle wood shavings to better quality, dust-free hypo-allergenic bedding that can be recycled in multiple cycles while reducing the industry's environmental footprint.
Our designed state-of-the-art performance facility will be at the forefront of these efforts, showcasing the latest advancements in equine waste management, environmental recycling and closed-loop production of bedding, high-yield fertilizers and renewables. Working together can create a better environment for everyone in the equine industry. We are proud to establish our business in South Florida and look forward to contributing to the region's ongoing success in being the leader and, dare say, "mecca" of the horse industry for North America.
Two Florida Towns Vie to Be Center of the Equestrian World
Duel between Wellington and Ocala heats up as Florida’s low taxes and warm weather draw wealthy residents
An equestrian rivalry between towns competing for horse-riding events and well-heeled homeowners and athletes is heating up in Florida.
Wellington, a village on the west side of Palm Beach County, for more than 15 years has been Florida’s equestrian sports center, hosting the Winter Equestrian Festival, which attracts tens of thousands of spectators during its 13-week run. The daughters of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Michael Bloomberg have competed in the festival and their families own homes in the area, according to real-estate brokers.
Now, the family of the late trucking magnate Ralph L. ‘Larry’ Roberts Sr. is trying to get a piece of this business in Ocala, a sleepy rural town of about 65,000 in central Florida. They have spent about $1 billion to build an event complex, named World Equestrian Center, that has more and larger arenas than Wellington International, as well as a greater variety of lodging, retail and restaurants. (* with Global Equestrian Group, HPAB would question this statement")
Wellington’s equestrian promoters and many businesses and developers in that area are worried that Ocala might usurp their dominance unless they expand their arenas and amenities. “If we sit idle, I think Wellington will atrophy,” said Mark Bellissimo, a developer who played a lead role in building Wellington’s equestrian business and is now advocating a major expansion plan. (HPAB adds: with investment and ownership of Global Equestrian Group)
The duel between the two equestrian centers is one of the more upscale competitions playing out in Florida as the state’s low taxes, warm weather and business-friendly government policies become a magnet for people living in New York, California and other areas in the U.S. While large Florida cities such as Miami and Tampa have experienced tremendous growth since the pandemic, smaller communities such as Wellington and Ocala also have undergone a boom in real-estate pricing and population.
Florida’s population increased by 1.9% between 2021 and 2022, the largest percentage increase in population of any state in the entire country last year, according to U.S. census data. Fourth-quarter median home prices were up 11% in Wellington and 15% in Ocala from a year earlier, according to Jonathan Miller, who compiles the data for Douglas Elliman.
Newcomers in Wellington and Ocala include celebrities in the equestrian world and big names in the business world whose children have developed a passion for riding. For example, Barry Sternlicht, chief executive of Starwood Capital Group, said his daughter’s activities in Wellington helped persuade him to move his headquarters to South Florida.
“ I came down because my mom lives down here, my daughter rides at Wellington, personal life changes,” said Mr. Sternlicht in a Wall Street Journal interview last year when asked why he moved to Miami. Another factor in his decision was a subsidiary he owned in South Beach with 300 employees, he said.
Will Simpson, a USA Olympic gold medalist, moved to Ocala from Los Angeles about two years ago after purchasing what he calls a “barndominium”—a house and barn set on 23 acres 10 minutes from the World Equestrian Center. “It’s an amazing horse community,” he said.
hris Desino, a broker-owner who specializes in both Wellington and Ocala, says he recently sold a 29-acre farm in Ocala for $4.1 million, a 43% increase over what it went for in 2020. In Wellington, raw land goes for much more, about $2 million an acre and up depending on how close it is to the show venue, says Martha Jolicoeur, a real-estate agent for Douglas Elliman.
More moderately priced homes also are being sold in both areas. Two large housing projects are being built near Wellington with townhomes starting at about $420,000.
Meanwhile, the Roberts family through one of its real-estate companies is selling over 200 lots in a gated golf and equestrian community it owns near Ocala’s equestrian center.
Still, growth in Florida’s wealthy and smaller communities is running into the same kind of headaches that the state’s big cities are suffering: traffic, noise, pollution and residents opposed to increased density.
For now, Wellington has a big lead on its upstart rival. Its equestrian events get more international attention. Its location is just a 30-minute drive from Palm Beach and a day trip from Miami.