If you know anyone who lives near Tryon, NC, you should make them your new best friend. That’s if you have any intention of attending the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in 2018. The FEI announced Thursday that the new site of WEG 2018 will be in Tryon, after the original site of Bromont, Quebec, dropped out last summer.
I live about 20 minutes from the Tryon International Equestrian Center, which three years ago was just a hilly forest. It’s already a world-class equestrian venue, but it is still very much in the development stages. The horse facilities are great, top rate in every respect, but the big question between now and September 2018 will be where all the people will lay their tired heads, not just the athletes, officials and visitors, but the thousands of volunteers who will need to be imported. The American Eventing Championships held at TIEC a month ago taxed local volunteer resources to the limit, and we’re all still trying to catch our breath from that one.
WEG 2018, which will offer half a million tickets over two weeks, Sept. 10 to 23, will be the second largest athletic event in the world that year, the largest being the soccer World Cup. Tryon is a town of 1,600, in a county of 20,000. Cross-country for WEG Eventing alone will boost the county’s population by several times that number for the day.
Right now there is one motel, although TIEC has built some housing for visitors and is planning a lot more. A whole bunch of temporary housing will need to be built or brought in. At best, visitors will be staying in Greenville SC (45 minutes), Asheville NC (45 minutes) or Charlotte NC (1 ½ hours). Airports, in those three cities, won’t be a problem. Funneling in the visitors from their outposts onto limited local highways will be a problem. Think buses, lots of buses.
I am thrilled that I’ll be able to see the best equestrians in the world for two weeks while still sleeping in my own bed at night. I am just keeping my fingers crossed that it won’t be a logistical nightmare. I think that the people at TIEC are aware of the challenges that lie ahead for them and have already proved that they have a lot of imagination and foresight. But this is just plain huge, and they may need a lot more than determination and energy to see them through the next two years. I am not so certain that the local agencies—city, county and state—have any real idea what lies ahead, although Charlotte’s Chamber of Commerce is already announcing plans. Other than shows at TIEC right now and the spring Block House Steeplechase, the biggest sporting event in the area is high school football.
So, before you even think about buying tickets, figure out where you are going to stay. And, before you ask, my guest bedroom and the blowup mattress for my TV room floor are already reserved.