A Day at Balmoral Park, Part 1
Yesterday, we visited Balmoral Park from the HITS hometown of Saugerties, New York, located about fifty minutes away from the Albany International Airport.
To demonstrate how easy the facilities are to access from O’Hare International Airport, we gave ourselves only 24 hours to travel to Balmoral, explore the area, and return to Saugerties.
We left early from Albany International and rented a car after arriving at O’Hare airport. Around 10am, we pulled into the Balmoral Park facilities.
After checking in at the horse show office with Siri DuPont-Hurley, the first administrative staff member at Balmoral Park, we toured the grounds of the future collaboration between HITS and ShowPlace Productions.
Along the way, the HITS staff members living and working on-site were able to answer some of our most pressing questions.
The site will host 12 shows in 2017, running from spring until fall. They will meet standards set by other HITS shows –USEF Rated National & Premiere Hunters, four- and five-star jumpers, a USHJA International Hunter Derby, FEI rated events (pending approval), and events that qualify for the HITS Championship.
Site improvements will include modernization and renovation of Balmoral’s historic barns and construction of six hunter rings and four jumper rings. The Grand Prix Ring will pay special tribute to the history of the park, facing the track's finish line and incorporating on one side Balmoral Park’s original tote board.
Perhaps most remarkably, the renovation of Balmoral Park’s grandstand will allow spectators to watch exhibitors showing in the rings from inside the park’s climate-controlled grandstand. HITS offices are abuzz with talk about the combined grandstand and clubhouse – “spectacular” hardly comes close to describing the building, which is almost certainly unique in the world of hunter/jumper showing.
At its peak, the Balmoral Park grandstand was capable of seating more than 8,000 exhibitors and the attached clubhouse could house another 2,000. Tom Struzzieri and Pat Boyle are uniquely capable of taking advantage of this cavernous, historic building. In addition to HITS shows nationwide, Struzzieri owns a hotel, Diamond Mills in Saugerties, and three restaurants: The Tavern at Diamond Mills and the Saugerties Harbor Restaurant in his hometown of Saugerties in addition to Black Barn Restaurant in Manhattan.
And at this point, HITS exhibitors are familiar with the wide array of hospitality HITS shows already offer on-site, fulfilling customer cravings whether they are specialty coffees, made-to-order salads, hearty breakfasts, all-inclusive VIP experiences, complementary exhibitor parties or the perfect burger. As we explored the historic clubhouses of Balmoral, our excitement mounted – Balmoral Park is ideal for showcasing the hospitality skills HITS has perfected after almost 40 years in the business.
The interiors of the Balmoral Park clubhouses are rich with history. This space is one horses and horse people have inhabited for years. Exploring the rooms, we couldn’t help but think that they felt ready to be filled once more with people in riding boots.
After our tour had concluded, we took one last look out of the window at the tote board that will form one side of the Grand Prix ring and then headed into town.
Tomorrow, head to the HITS Blog to read A Day at Balmoral Park, Part 2! We’ll show you the town of Crete, Illinois and the amenities horse show exhibitors can look forward to as we gear up for a HITS/ShowPlace Productions partnership in the Midwest.
Read about the second half of our day here!