It’s about building relationships and sharing the love of equestrian sports that has allowed the 50-year-old Thunderbird Show Park (tbird) in Langley to grow and develop into one of the premiere show jumping destination in all the world.
And its thanks to such partnerships – with sponsors and supporters, who have come aboard through the years – that such a designation is even possible, explained Chris Pack, the president and operations director at tbird.
“The value of sponsorships in equestrian sport is something that is drastically different than most other international professional sporting types,” he said.
“By that I mean, it’s the reason that we can not only host high-level FEI five-star events, but it’s also the backbone of our annual capital improvement plan and the backbone of what we pay out in prize money – which this year will be over $3 millions,” Pack shared.
Many other major sporting events have television as one of their major revenue streams, thus making ticket sales revenue a bonus to their operational budgets.
Show jumping is not the same, he clarified.
“We are dependent upon our amazing sponsors, partners, and patrons whose passion for the sport enables us to continuously build the facility, as well as advance the sport.”
He offered an example. Evergate Stables is a partner who has done both.
“They not only wanted to help tbird build up our infrastructure, but also wanted to assist in advancing the high performance FEI side of jumping. So they enabled us to build a new 128-stall stabling barn, specifically designed for top horses, with larger stalls, matted floors, and camera’s in each stall to give the athletes 24-hour monitoring of their mounts,” Pack explained.
Similarly, there have been many other times, where tbird has partnered with sponsors to upgrade the facilities and riding rings – for instance ensuring that all the surfaces are state-of-the-art, all-weather engineered synthetic arena’s.
Its a way, year after year, that some of tbird partners give back to “the sport they love so,” said Pack.
But the commitment to the sport also goes much deeper, he added.
”Chicken or egg? Prize money or riders? The challenge to most show organizers and facilities is how to attract the best riders in the world, continent, and country to jump through all the logistical hoops of shipping around their horses to come and compete at your venue,” Pack explained.
One of the main reasons is world-ranking points, given out by the FEI (the world governing body for horse sport, equivalent to FIFA for soccer). These points position the riders against everyone around the world, regardless of age, gender, and country.
“Show jumping is so unique and incredible in that sense, as it’s purely based on results of your competitions. These highly sought after points as awarded on a scale, which mainly depends on how much prize money was offered in the events you competed in, and thus your results in those competitions earn you the Longines world-ranking points.” https://data.fei.org/Ranking/Search.aspx?rankingCode=S_WR
The next two events at tbird are both give the “illustrious designation” of being five-star (5 *****) starts, Pack elaborated.
“Thus, we must give out almost $1 million in prize money in these five-star competitions each of the next two weeks.”
The best riders in the world plan their year around these five-star competitions around the globe, and Pack said “we are so extremely fortunate that our amazing 70+ sponsors, partners, and patrons have supported us to be able to put up this kind of prize money – attracting four of the current top 10 riders in the world, and the currently highest-ranked woman in the work, local athlete Tiffany Foster.”
Tbird’s top partners include Longines, Odlum Brown, ATCO, The Keg, Paladin Risk Solutions, Major Leauge Show Jumping, and SHOW+.
“Over the past 20 years that I have been a part of Thunderbird, we have been so honoured and privileged to build some amazing relationships with many businesses and individuals. Without these amazing supporters, we would not be able to attract over 1,000 horses to our major events,” said Pack.
To put it in an economic perspective, he noted that each event generates more than $17.6 million per week in direct and in-direct revenue for B.C.
“We are proud to have such amazing supporters who are aiding tbird to continue to grow the sport and friendships,” Pack concluded, encouraging people to check out the Nations Cup or other world-class equestrian competitions coming up at tbird this season.
The Nations Cup is happening on Sunday, June 4, with activities from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at tbird.
On Friday, June 2, competitions run 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Saturday schedule runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
And Sunday’s big $400,000 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup is from 2 to 4 p.m. with gates opening at 1 p.m.
General admission for the Nations Cup is $10 per person, while children five and younger are admitted free.
Spectator tickets for the Nations Cup can be bought online at tbird.ca.
The public is asked to enter the gates at 6975 248th St.
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