Report: Local businesses had mixed experiences of the WEG

Credit : Sportfot

Wednesday 26 September - 10h20 | Ian Clayton

Report: Local businesses had mixed experiences of the WEG

A mixed bag.

 - Report: Local businesses had mixed experiences of the WEG

Credit : Tryon 2018 Facebook

That’s how local businesses are viewing the impact of the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) on their bottom lines, according to one report. As Adam Orr writes in North Carolina’s Shelby Star newspaper, businesses in Polk County, where the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) is located, have been taking stock of their economic experiences of the Games, which wrapped up Sunday. 
The WEG, held every four years in the middle of the Olympic cycle, is one of the biggest events in the global sporting calendar, and Tryon organizers had anticipated 400,000–500,000 visitors from around the world and $200–400 million in economic spin-offs for the state. Tourism officials were also hoping that global exposure for the beautiful region would encourage repeat visits in the future. 

Of course, that was before the severe difficulties posed by Hurricane Florence, as well as construction delays at the site and other organizational problems. The TIEC had always faced a major challenge in putting on the Games – which bring together eight sports governed by the Fédération Équestre Internationale – given the short time period they had to prepare after stepping in to replace original host Bromont, Quebec.

Faced with the uncertain weather conditions across the Carolinas and their potential impacts on the surrounding environment, many people who had bought tickets to the two-week event apparently decided not to come. And in the end, WEG organizers have estimated a total of around 200,000 attendees and, reportedly, a loss of up to $1.5 million on the venture.  

As Polk County Manager Marche Pittman told Orr, there was a perception among some local residents that the region was going to be “flooded by spectators from abroad”, which led many to stay away. “I think that will have a big part to play with the way people actually end up viewing what happened at the games,” Pittman told the Star. 

Patricia Overholt, owner of Southern Manners Deli in Columbus, N.C. – about 10 km southwest of the TIEC – added that: “We didn’t actually see any uptick in business. In fact, I think the World Equestrian Games hurt us just a bit. I think a lot of locals feared there was going to be just this crush of traffic on the roads, so folks who would have come out likely decided to stay at home.”

At the same time, Tryon Coffeehouse co-op owner Kevin Parker experienced a big jump at the till, he told the journalist. “It was overwhelmingly positive, for the first week in particular,” Parker said. And while it is too early for a comprehensive evaluation of economic impacts, some business owners felt nearby cities and counties may end up having experienced the biggest benefit. 

Meanwhile, some vendors on-site left the WEG early due to various factors, according to ABC News 13 WLOS. Nick Botta, who was operating a pizza food truck, told the network that “on a scale of one to 10, his business at the games has been about a .5. He said he's lost money on his investment in buying a spot at the World Equestrian Games. He said slow business is why some vendors left early.” Photo below from Scoopdyga. 

 - Report: Local businesses had mixed experiences of the WEG

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