WELLINGTON — There were a lot of firsts Sunday in Wellington along with the steady stream of Veuve Clicquot and pretty people still hung over from New Year’s Eve.
First day of 2017, of course.
First day of International Polo Club Palm Beach‘s new season, one that will culminate in April with the 113th playing of the US Open Cup.
And the first official polo played under new IPC ownership.
Already, the effects of the takeover by Mark Bellissimo‘s Wellington Equestrian Partners are being felt and not just at the new Kids Zone, where bounce houses are designed to attract an increasingly younger fan base.
“We’re pleased to see a new generation of polo starting today,” said Bellissimo, WEP’s managing partner. The company bought IPC from imprisoned mogul John Goodman in May for $72 million. “Increasingly, our focus will be to develop polo for the long term to a broader audience. We’re redefining what the club is about instead of the two-steps-back-one-step-forward policies (from the past).”
Take The Pavilion, for example. That’s where fans brunch in style before the games then party with just as much pizzazz afterwards.
The obvious change was the 15-foot widening of the terrace to get the crowd even closer to the action with much more space between tables. Gone are the days when those closest to the field baked in the sun and sweated in their oyster plates.
And there’s something different in the extensive buffet, too. Now Juan Gando, owner of Wellington’s Grille, Oli’s, Seahorse, and White Horse Tavern is bringing his brand of Fashion Cuisine to The Pavilion.
Much more roomy also is the Coco Polo Lounge, the VIPs’ VIP hangout.
Sponsored by the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek and Palm Beach’s Worth Avenue, Coco Polo is now reserved for up to 70 people who, for $200 per, get an “enhanced” VIP experience with a $500-swag bag and an exclusive food station with its own chef.
“It’s a whole different experience from what you get usually at polo,” said Robert Dearstine, the casino’s marketing boss.
On every Sunday for the next 16 weeks and until the final of the 113th US Open Cup, Wellington belongs to polo again.
And, as we have for the past five years, Gossip Extra will be there and publish weekly Mike Jachles’ exclusive photos.
Check out Sunday’s action below, and as usual, click on any photo for the enhanced viewing: