Inviting hundreds of competitors – their teams and horses – means a lot of work for the Thunderbird Show Park team – especially when thousands of spectators are welcomed to enjoy the events.
It’s a hard job, but one in which Chris Pack – chief operating officer and tournament manager with Tbird – takes great pride.
“It’s a madhouse,” Pack said of the days leading up to events like the upcoming Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup.
“Especially this year, because construction-wise the weather has been awful,” he noted.
One of the biggest improvements Pack has been involved in implementing has been a new surface in the Pacific Park ring.
All rings have slowly been converted to the German Geotextile Footing (GGF) and this will be the last one for competitors, he said.
Ironically the weather that is preventing the installation won’t be an issue once the new surface is installed.
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“It takes the weather equation out of it,” Pack explained.
While ring surfaces, or footings, are important to Pack, he’s also focused on accommodations for the more than 1,000 horses set to arrive.
“We’re going to have 1,100 stalls on the property,” he noted.
“Every stall has five bags of shavings in it. We’ll go through around 25,000 bags of shavings [during the event weekend] and we deliver every one.”
Beyond accommodation needs, there are aesthetic and performance needs like the flowers that adorn different areas of the rings and the jumps which are custom-built at the show park. Each sponsor has a custom-designed jump in their honour.
“We just want everything to be perfect,” Pack said.
Then there’s the stallions. Oh, those high-maintenance stallions.
“They’re basically on maximum security,” Pack noted of the area the stallions are kept in. “Some people only subscribe to riding a stallion, but it’s all bio-security.”
Thunderbird even has its own security team and with so many unique needs it’s understandable.
Competitors can make use of the 95 RV spots on site and Pack also ensures meals and rest areas are available for humans and horses alike.
A competing focus for Pack is the spectators.
“There are different formats, but we want the best spectator format,” he said.
This is one of the reasons for the new 41-square-metre display board to engage spectators and keep them involved.
About 100 staff will make up the Thunderbird team to put on the Nations Cup. It’s a different scene from the off-season at the show park.
“We dwindle down to nine or 10 in the off times,” noted Pack.
He recognizes that spectators may have no idea of the magnitude of activity that goes on at Thunderbird, and for the most part, that’s a good thing.
“Literally anything can happen,” Pack said of the competition itself.
Fortunately, with all the work he and his team have put in, everything behind the scenes should be a smooth ride.
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