Sep 12, 2017 5:59 PM
In the heart of the Central Circuit lies a small polo club that encapsulates the qualities of family, friendship and community—words used by many to describe Midwesterners. Twin City Polo Club (TCPC), located in Maple Plain, Minnesota, offers a community-driven approach to daily polo operations, resulting in a tight knit, enjoyable place to gather and play.
Originally opened in the 1920s at Fort Snelling by the U.S. Army, the club called several small fields home in the local area before 1964 when Jim Binger (the CEO of Honeywell) purchased the current land where the club resides. The land and club were eventually purchased by Peter Alworth and Bob Brady who continue to play polo with friends and family every summer. All the amenities needed to run a successful club are housed at TCPC including three fields, stabling for several teams, 18 paddocks, wash racks, a club house and elevated viewing deck.
Twin City Polo Club has an organizational structure that relies heavily on members who are invested and intertwined with the success of the club. Club President Peter Alworth takes care of many functions required to run an effective club, but counts on loyal members to assist. “That’s the beauty of the club in my eyes,” said Mimi Alworth, Peter Alworth’s daughter and TCPC member. “The thing I love is that people who play here have been here forever. Once you start at the club, you stick around for 10-20 years, everyone is here for the long haul. That’s why everyone is really willing to volunteer and pitch in the best way that they can. It is really great to have a club that a lot of people have a hand in. It doesn’t really feel like it is one person’s club. It feels like everyone kind of owns it and everyone’s opinions are heard. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s a conglomerate of people that share the responsibility rather than one person at the helm.”
This approach to managing a club means that everyone has to stick together and work as one in order to be successful. “I think Peter has done a great job in regards to keeping the peace,” said club member Austin Figge. “When you go to other areas of the country where there are a lot of polo fields, you notice people branching off and building their own fields. They no longer play together and they aren’t around each other. As a club overall, there has been a lot of focus on trying to avoid that. Maybe it’s the ‘Minnesota nice’ that allows us to do that.”
With a summer season that runs from May to October, TCPC hosts a range of polo for their dedicated members and out-of-town teams ranging from 0- to 6-goal. Twin City Polo Club serves as the only USPA Member Club in the state of Minnesota, but has a strong relationship with clubs throughout their circuit. “Most of the time we will have a 0-goal tournament that runs simultaneously with the 6-goal,” explained Alworth. “We have clubs in South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Idaho that bring teams in to play. We will run a 6-goal and 0-goal tournament together and it is fun to have both going at the same time. Often the 0-goal teams will stick around and watch the 6-goal. A lot of times there are younger people playing in the 0-goal and they can aspire to be at the 6-goal level by watching the games. Those tournaments together reinforce our community.” TCPC tournaments not only offer polo, but entire weekends full of casual social events for players. Club Delegate Robbin Figge added, “I think that the very cool thing about the Central Circuit in general, and the thing TCPC is very good at it, is that we are very welcoming. We host parties several times when teams are in town. If there is someone new to the club or visiting, a member will usually say ‘hey, let’s go have dinner, let’s go have a drink.’ We all get together and have a good time. Polo is serious, but after, everyone is going to get together, go to someone’s house have a good dinner and start over the next day fresh."
Twin City Polo Club strongly encourages young players to get out on the field and practice their skills. The club has hosted a National Youth Tournament Series (NYTS) Qualifier since 2015, and has grown the tournament each year since. “My brother [Pierce Alworth] is now part of Team USPA having come out of that tournament,” said Alworth. “He was awarded All-Star in the NYTS Qualifier and then he tried out for Team USPA. Once he was accepted, he went to Wyoming over the summer to play with Team USPA. All of that was possible because we had our NYTS Qualifier here.”
Young players aren’t the only demographic that has begun to grow at the club. 2017 marks the first year that a women’s tournament was played at Twin City Polo Club. Robbin Figge, along with Alworth and two other club members put their heads together and organized a successful event that featured an impressive four teams. Several team owners bring professionals in to play each summer, but TCPC members recruited all the female players in the area to participate in the inaugural event, which proved to be a great time for all involved. “The USPA has awarded us the 2018 Central Circuit Women’s Challenge for next year,” said Robbin Figge. “I am hoping that we can grow the tournament to the level that the Alexanders did at Blackberry Polo Club in Illinois for so many years. We want to do it justice because they did such a good job for thirty years and have decided to pass the torch to us.”
Twin City Polo Club always welcomes those wanting to learn the sport of polo. Although the club does not have a lesson program at this time, members are willing to help newcomers get involved. “I encourage people that are interested to come to polo, show up, ride, groom and exercise” said Robbin Figge. “We want to get people on the field. If they are willing to commit to showing up at the club and helping, then we are very willing to put them on horses.” This work-to-ride approach not only benefits the club, but fosters a sense of community where everyone works towards a common goal, which is to get as many people on the polo field as possible.
This effort to have every person involved in operations extends to those outside the boards just as much as inside. Twin City Polo Club has two very dedicated photographers that capture all aspects of the sport. “We really value our photographers,” said Alworth. “Moon Lai has been with us for several years and is very passionate about helping Twin City grow. He is just as much a part of the club as any of the players because he is super dedicated and stays late after the game and joins us at asados. He and our other photographer Bob Hosker, who is a bit newer to the club, have become part of our community and really benefit us with all of their amazing work.” All of the photos in this article were generously provided to the USPA by both Hosker and Lai.
Twin City Polo Club’s driving force has been family and friends that come together to play great polo. “It’s a family thing here,” said Alworth. “I play with my dad, my brother and my sister. Husband and wife, Austin and Robbin play together and they kick butt. They have kids that are going to grow up and be awesome polo players. We all just have a really great time together.” Robbin Figge echoed Alworth’s words stating, “We have a lot of family participation at the club. Even if they aren’t there playing, they are there watching and cheering and taking care of horses.”
Due to the club’s prime location just outside Minneapolis, it has immense potential to become a popular summer destination for travelling teams and families wishing to play polo together. Many museums, amusements parks, art centers and attractions are located within the large city, providing entertainment for all ages. “TCPC could be a major summer destination for players. We are 45 minutes from the airport, Lake Tetonka is nearby, there are lots of things to do and amazing restaurants,” said Austin Figge. “I think that we have room to grow."
A solid sense of community fueled by dedicated members has been the constant at Twin City Polo Club for several decades. “The long-term commitment that we get from pretty much all of our players and the ability that we have at the end of the day to realize that we are all part of the club and that we are all there to have fun,” said Alworth. “Everything gets competitive of course, it’s polo, and it wouldn’t be fun if it wasn’t competitive, but when all is said and done, all of us love to get together after the game and hang out and be a club.”
Twin City Polo Club possesses core values that shine through each dedicated member and player. As the only USPA Member Club in Minnesota, TCPC successfully serves the state with great polo, great friends and an amazing location to compete and grow. To learn more about Twin City Polo Club, please visit them at www.twincitypolo.com and like them on Facebook and Instagram.
Effective Date: Saturday, May 16, 2020
The suspension of USPA Tournaments and Events will be lifted for USPA Member Clubs in locales where hosting polo matches and tournaments is permitted under applicable state and local laws, executive orders and similar decrees. The USPA Member Clubs in these locales are encouraged to follow all such requirements of their state and local authorities with respect to polo operations. In addition, we also encourage all USPA Member Clubs to take the precautions recommended by the CDC. We are preparing a detailed list of best practices for USPA Member Clubs as they return to hosting USPA Tournaments and Events and plan to circulate these guidelines within the next week. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and will notify you if we determine a different course of action is necessary.Read More