Jun 15, 2022 4:39 PM
In October 2019, when Stewart Armstrong was appointed as the new Chairman of the United States Polo Association, he said that “the USPA could make polo better for everyone by owning its own polo fields.” A “delicate and controversial subject,” as he stated, yet a key move towards polo’s sustainability in the long term by guaranteeing the continuation of polo in Wellington, Florida.
A little over two-and-a-half years later after Armstrong’s election, following one of the best GAUNTLET OF POLO seasons, the USPA decided to purchase the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) from Wellington Equestrian Partners, securing a home for polo in South Florida in one of the best venues in America. The IPC property will be called “The USPA National Polo Center – Wellington” (NPC).
Armstrong was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, and travelled 80 miles every weekend to play polo in San Antonio while he studied Finance at the University of Texas (Austin). His father and grandfather were both ranchers who played and bred, both passions he inherited from them. As a high-goal player, holding a 7-goal handicap at the height of his career, Armstrong raised the C.V. Whitney Cup twice in the 1980s and continued playing throughout the years eventually joining the ranks of the inaugural GAUNTLET OF POLO representing Aspen.
CLICKPOLO spoke with Stewart Armstrong about his time as the USPA's Chairman and the new USPA National Polo Center - Wellington.
What does NPC mean for polo in America?
Wow, that’s a big subject! I’ll try to answer it as best anyone can. I qualify my response because to answer the question requires some ability to see the future. Obviously, I cannot see the future so please understand that these are my visions of what I hope the future will be.
First and foremost, the purchase ensures the perpetuation of polo in Wellington. You may say this is nothing to predict. But to take for granted that polo will always be alive and well in Wellington is to be ignorant of history. Every other major club in the United States, since the inception of polo, has been swallowed by economic and development changes. Those clubs include Meadow Brook, Oak Brook, Palm Beach Polo and Country Club, Retama and Royal Palm Polo Club. With the USPA’s purchase, polo will remain in Wellington in spite of the growing presence and investment by the jumping and dressage disciplines. This purchase, combined with the proper execution of a viable strategy, can ensure the perpetuity of the most important polo venue in the United States.
Second, our strategy for this investment is founded on our belief that polo is dependent on playing team owners willing to support the professional players that, together, make up the backbone of American polo. In order to grow the sport, we have to focus on creating demand for polo amongst the participants. The Sunday Field concept submits that raising the stature of tournaments and venues where competitions are held drives demand for the sport. Our intention is to share NPC with all levels of the sport so that team owners, professionals and amateurs from all levels experience the exhilaration of playing an important match on a big stage.
Third, we hope to unite the clubs in south Florida through a coordinated schedule of tournaments that benefit the clubs and inspire cooperation. Having such a great facility will give the USPA more leverage to make polo better through good leadership.
And fourth, we want to reinvigorate the social club (Mallet Grill, swimming pool, tennis, spa, etc.) in a way that draws the polo community together in an environment that inspires camaraderie.
And finally, my personal goal, and one that will take a long time to realize, is to pursue excellence in polo, where practical, with the intention that one day the quality of our best players in the USA is on par with the best Argentine players. This is a very difficult goal to realize. But without the purchase of this property our chances of ever regaining our footing would be much less than they are today.
Is the idea is to have more polo at NPC throughout the year?
While we want to continue The GAUNTLET tournaments, our overarching goal is to share the facilities with all of polo. So yes, we will have more polo. But it needs to be in concert with the surrounding clubs, not in competition with them. In short, we are a center for polo rather than a club. We want to enhance other clubs rather than compete with them.
Is there any other use NPC will serve the USPA besides polo?
That may come with time as we work with the property, but we have not made any plans as of yet.
Do you consider this the most important accomplishment as the Chairman of the USPA?
How would you evaluate your administration so far?
I am proud of my administration up to this point. We are trusted, which is no small claim to make. That requires both integrity and competence. And we are hard working. We all, volunteers and staff together, are focused on making polo better. This sounds so simple, but in fact it has allowed me to focus a very large board, numerous committees and a professional full-time staff on the same goal across many different areas of our sport. We have built momentum and, most important, we have a culture that strives for improvement. These are important accomplishments in any organization. We are well run and deserve to be proud of our cooperative work ethic.
You took several measures as Chairman since you were appointed. Were any of them hard to make?
You bet. Members of the polo community as a whole are the best group of friends I have in life. At times I have had to take positions that one of my friends was not going to like. This is never easy.
What is the most important accomplishment you have achieved since you were appointed, besides the purchase of the new NPC?
Hiring Chris Green to lead the staff. He is far and away the best leader the USPA has ever hired and he is setting the standard which every future COO should be held to achieve. Suffice it to say that we would not have purchased IPC without Chris Green at the helm.
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