Many people often rejoice in the change a new year brings. However, a new year also celebrates a continuation in history and tradition of long established events. The Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), which has developed a rich 36 year history, will once again take place in Palm Beach County. The 2017 edition will be held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington from January 11 to April 2.
Not only is the Winter Equestrian Festival the largest annual sporting event in The Palm Beaches, it is the longest running equestrian event in the world, attracting both national and international athletes. The event hosts 7,000 horses and thousands of riders from all 50 states and 33 countries. Participants will compete in Hunters, Jumpers, Equitation, and Dressage classifications with prize money exceeding $8 million. The substantial purse prize attracts Olympic-class and international riders
The Winter Equestrian Festival is a proving ground for the United States Equestrian Team, and serves as host of selection trials and such qualifiers for important international events such as the FEI World Cup Finals and the Olympic Games. In addition to Olympic-caliber competition, WEF hosts the nation’s premier competition for children, juniors, adults and amateurs; for riders aged 6 to 70 years old in more than 55 unique divisions of competition. Each week is considered an individual horse show, with more than 20,000 exhibitors (horse owners, trainers, riders, vendors, & support personnel) and equestrian athletes competing within 12 show rings throughout the state-of-the-art equestrian show complex. Each show week starts on Wednesday and concludes on Sunday with at least one major competition on a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon in the world-famous International Arena. Last year, over 250,000 spectators attended the Winter Equestrian Festival throughout its 12 weeks.
The economic and tourism impact that is derived from the Winter Equestrian Festival is enormous. The Palm Beach County Sports Commission conducted an economic impact study for the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival. Per the study, this event generated $110 million in visitor spending and 119,102 room nights for hotels and seasonal rentals.
The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center encompasses more than 500 acres and offers the latest in facilities, including world class competition arenas, one derby field, and the largest covered riding surface in the world. Not only can you enjoy the action in the stadium during the Winter Equestrian Festival, but there are also galleries for shopping, wine and coffee, bars, tasty food fare and children’s areas.
General admission is free. Limited VIP seating and packages are available. For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit www.equestriansport.com.
On December 20th, the Boca Raton Bowl kicked off at FAU Stadium for the third consecutive year. Palm Beach County is one of only 35 privileged communities throughout the United States that hosts a NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS)-sanctioned bowl game. The 2016 game featured Western Kentucky from Conference USA and the University of Memphis from the American Athletic Conference. Western Kentucky University won the Conference USA Championship, which brought the Boca Raton Bowl its third conference champion in its three years of existence. The Boca Raton Bowl has developed an impressive resume in a short period of time.
The 2016 Boca Raton Bowl featured a great matchup considering two nationally ranked offenses collided. Western Kentucky came out of a Boca Raton Bowl shootout against Memphis with a 51-31 victory. Both teams combined for a remarkable 1,089 yards of total offense.
In addition to the excitement of college football, the Boca Raton Bowl provided a surge of economic and media benefits. The buzz and national attention for the Boca Raton Bowl was robust due to the incredible success of the participating teams. The game generated tremendous exposure for The Palm Beaches during the three-hour live broadcast on ESPN. Over 1.58 million households watched the Boca Raton Bowl making it the top ranked sports programming and the 11th best cable programming for the day. The 2016 Boca Raton Bowl aired four times – twice on ESPN (live on 12/20 and 3 a.m. on 12/21) and twice on ESPNU (12:10 a.m. and 7 a.m. on 12/21). The cumulative household viewership for those four airings was just under 1.9 million.
Tourism is the foundation of a bowl game. Thousands of alumni, students, and football enthusiasts traveled to Palm Beach County to experience the thrills of post-season college football. Total paid attendance was reported at 24,276. The influx of visitors provided an enormous boost to Palm Beach County’s economy by filling hotel rooms and generating significant revenues for restaurants, attractions, retail outlets, and the local business community.
In addition to the game, the Boca Raton Bowl engaged communities across The Palm Beaches. Welcome parties and pep rallies were hosted in West Palm Beach, Delray Beach, and Boca Raton. The City of Lake Worth and the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Oceanfront Resort in Riviera Beach hosted beach parties for the athletes, coaches, and their families. The Palm Beach County Convention Center was home to the Boca Raton Bowl Luncheon, which attracted over 600 attendees, including the participating teams, sponsors, and community representatives. The teams held their practices at the Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach and St. Andrew’s High School in Boca Raton. The excitement and impact was felt countywide.
The Boca Raton Bowl capped a record-breaking year for sports tourism in Palm Beach County. The momentum has our community already craving for the 2017 edition.
Palm Beach County crowned a national champion in collegiate soccer for the third straight year. The Palm Beach County Sports Commission and Keiser University partnered to host the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Men’s Soccer National Championship at Hilltopper Stadium and the adjoining Seacrest Soccer Complex in Delray Beach from November 28 to December 3. The 58th Annual NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship featured the top 16 teams in the NAIA competing in 15 games to crown a national champion.
Hastings College of Nebraska claimed its second national championship in school history by defeating Rio Grande of Ohio in a close 1-0 victory. In order to make the tournament, 32 teams compete in qualifying (opening round) games held on campus at participating schools. These 32 teams are comprised of 24 automatic qualifiers awarded to conference/independent and regular-season champions, and eight at-large teams selected by the NAIA Men’s Soccer Modified Ratings Percentage Index. The 16 winning teams in the qualifiers advance to Palm Beach County as the National Championship host site.
The NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship created a significant tourism impact to Palm Beach County. The 16 teams brought over 480 soccer players and coaches along with thousands of students, alumni, and soccer enthusiasts from across the nation. Over 1,600 room nights have been tracked and more than $1 million in direct visitor spending was generated.
Hosting the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship is an historic occasion for The Palm Beaches. Very few destinations are privileged to host the pinnacle of college sports, which is a national championship.
The Palm Beach County Sports Commission partnered with USA Field Hockey to host the National Hockey Festival over Thanksgiving weekend, from November 24-27, 2016, at the International Polo Club in Wellington. The National Hockey Festival is the world’s largest field hockey tournament and one of the largest amateur sports events that takes place annually in the United States.
Nearly 200 teams and 7,000 total visitors from the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Caribbean traveled to The Palm Beaches. The participating teams contended for titles in women’s and men’s divisions, including women’s age group (Under 14, Under 16, and Under 19), boy’s age group (Under 16), and women’s open and mixed (adult). Over 600 field hockey games took place during the National Hockey Festival.
The Palm Beach County Sports Commission has enjoyed a longstanding partnership with USA Field Hockey. The Palm Beaches has been home to the National Hockey Festival on nine (9) previous occasions (most recently in 2012 and 2013) and is the only Florida destination to host this event.
The International Polo Club is a remarkable venue that maintains 248 acres of land, consisting of nine (9) polo fields. The venue was a key ingredient in the successful bid to host the National Hockey Festival. A total of five (5) polo fields were utilized to layout nearly 30 field hockey pitches.
The National Hockey Festival provided a dramatic tourism impact. All of the participating teams traveled from outside of Florida to compete at this event. Over 40 hotels were assembled, from Jupiter to Boca Raton, in order to accommodate the visitation created by the athletes, coaches, and spectators of the National Hockey Festival. Over 10,000 room nights and $7 million of direct visitor spending was generated.
The National Hockey Festival origins date back to 1922. The event features the most talented field hockey athletes in the world, including future Olympians. Today, over 25,000 athletes, coaches, officials and fans comprise the membership of USA Field Hockey, making it one of the most successful National Governing Bodies in the United States.