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 New Equestrian Center in Tryon to host Grand Prix


The Grand Prix racing at TIEC in Tryon Resort starts at 6:30 p.m. on D-Day, with Olympian equestrian athletes competing for $210,000 in prize money. The four-star Grand Prix is of a premier caliber. This major event is a leap of well-based faith. Its “show jumping” is a timed event, in which horse and rider must clear elevated obstacles and have points deducted for errors.

Festivities start at 5 p.m. Admission and parking are free, in a departure from more exclusive racing centers elsewhere in the nation. George H. Morris Stadium seats as many as 6,000.

There will also be live performances by local musicians, a magician, jugglers and aerial artists and plenty of food and beverages. Family activities include riding on ponies and a Venetian wooden carousel, face painting and airbrushed tattoos. Tryon Equestrian Partners’ Managing Partner Mark Bellissimo liked seeing street performers at historic Faneuil Hall in Boston, his hometown. Asheville Area Craft Brewery Festival is being held on June 6th, but tickets to those are $40 in advance online at Festival of the Carolinas – Asheville Craft Brewery Edition or $50 at the door.

NBC will tape, then broadcast, the racing the next day, June 7, 4-5 p.m. The coverage makes the gala the “coming out party for this area,” Bellissimo told the media earlier this month. “We’re hosting an event that will bring exposure to the sport in this area and give the general public a chance to experience all that the Tryon International Equestrian Center has to offer. These competitions continue to be a highlight for competitors and spectators. We plan to make them a staple in the schedule here for years to come.”

First, Tryon Spring event no. 7 is May 27-31. Premier (AA) hunters and jumpers at level 6 CSI 3 will compete. Tryon Spring 8 is June 3-7 with CSI 4. Tryon Summer Dressage is June 13-14. The season ends Oct. 25. A benefit for various charities is in the works. These are international-level competitions, across various classes. The Center opened in June of 2014 with sanctioned horse shows.

The next free Saturday Night Lights events are June 27, then July 4 and 11. The series debuted this month. It is free, contrasting to $20 per carload at its sister facility in Florida.

Spring 8 in part benefits the 90-year-old Tryon Racing and Hunt Club. TR&HC hosts the heralded Block House Steeplechase Races in May (the recent one was the 69th edition), at the non-profit Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE) in Tryon. About 20,000 people attend. Nancy Z. Wilson is TR&HC president. Already, on May 17, the WCHR Tryon Open Hunter Classic benefitted the Tryon Equestrian Foundation.

TR&HC holds its 87th annual horse show June 4-7 in Tryon Resort, and jointly with TIEC has horse shows at the resort in the first three weeks of July. Its volunteers will be serving ice cream there.

The new Equestrian Center is at 4066 Pea Ridge Road, by U.S. 74 and near I-26 in Mill Spring. It is in Polk County, four miles from the Rutherford County line. It is part of 1,400-acre Tryon Resort, which year-round offers as its promoters call it “the most significant new equestrian lifestyle destination in the world.”

Five riding arenas have “world-class, all-weather footing,” and TIEC could end up with 10 arenas. There are 500 permanent stables with 500 more planned, wash stalls, restrooms, Wi-Fi Internet access and vendor sites. Elevated viewing platforms have climate-controlled shade structures, even for horses.

The tower clock, hailed as the largest Rolex clock in the world, will be unveiled June 6.

More than 500 jobs have been created by this project, according to website data. TIEC is run by V.P. of Resort Operations Vaneli Bojkova, and V.P. of Resort Facilities Jeff Brown.

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Mark Bellissimo

Mastermind Bellissimo is TIEC co-founder, and among a half-dozen main investors in the $100 million complex. The one-time software company entrepreneur emerged in the last decade as a leader in the equestrian facility industry. The Harvard Business School alumnus, a college hockey player, built the premium International Equestrian Center (IEC) near Palm Beach, Fla. Successful IEC has 12 competition rings, a 7,000-seat arena, and public nightclub. It hosts the Winter Equestrian Festival, with nearly 25 Olympic riders. IEC draws about 300,000 visitors annually and generates 90,000 hotel room night stays. Bellissimo hopes for similar results in Tryon.

Eclipsing equine elitism of Boston Bruins’ owner Jeremy Jacobs’ crowd, Bellissimo expanded his customer base. He cut admission fees, added a carousel ride and better-priced eateries. TIEC’s Tryon Cafe is joined by The Legends Club Grille and “Happy Days”-like Roger’s Diner named after TIEC partner Roger Smith, co-partners Mark and Katherine Bellissimo noted. Blue Ginger, also debuting this month, specializes in sushi and salads for a more up-scale option.

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What is heralded as the largest Rolex clock in the world will be unveiled at the center’s tower June 6.

Amenities abound. Tryon Resort’s upcoming Tryon Sports Complex will feature a deluxe health club, large pool with private cabanas, game room, sports bar, tennis courts, basketball court and children’s playground. The stadium has a concert stage. Its jumbo-tron screen can show movies similar to a drive-in theater, with viewers in golf carts.

Projections are for a covered riding facility to span 100,000 square feet, having more footing than any such arena in the world, according to Bellissimo. Another concept is a sixth riding arena.

Two-year plans also include for an 18-hole Arnold Palmer signature golf course, regulation polo field, equine clay course, four turf rings, open riding areas, bridle paths, paved walking trails, vehicle roads, and heliport.

The Hotel at Tryon Resort is slated to open next year, with 150 guest rooms. It is to have a fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, restaurant and bar, retail shops, and entertainment pavilion and a grand ballroom/meeting area each 5,000 square feet. A second luxury hotel and spa by Salamander Hotels & Resorts is eyed.

Meantime, luxury multi-bedroom homes are planned to be sold, with some available for guest rental along with single-room cabins and an RV park. Area day trips can benefit Henderson and Buncombe business.

The new equestrian facility goes well with the nearby 300-acre FENCE nature preserve, and its horseback riding and hiking trails.

Tryon is tabbed by TIEC promoters as the “equi-center of the United States, with a broad and deep history of equestrian culture and sports.” Tryon is a cradle of modern show jumping, hosting 1956 and 1960 Olympic trials. Bellissimo foresees a U.S. Equestrian Center in Tryon, to develop young riders.

For more information, call (828) 863-1000 or check or

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