Polo players who frequent the desert each year to compete in polo under sunny skies, and upon vast green fields have been heard. Their requests for better fields, good service, fun parties and more functional facilities have not fallen on deaf ears. Empire Polo Club has been listening and they have opened their doors to the winter polo community.
Established in 1987, Empire Polo Club has been an intricate part of polo history here in the California desert. While they have always offered polo, they have not been active during the winter season for many years as they’ve had their fields leased out. This year, Empire has decided to launch a new winter polo program. They have joined forces with Twin Palms Polo Club and Rancho Polo Club and offer year-round polo.
Empire has been hard at work making improvements to their facility to cater to the needs of the polo players. They have removed the old cross-ties (previously with walls) and they have installed new tie rails, designed with the safety of horses in mind.
At the tie rails the horses will stand on rubber mats with drainage slots that are laid over a gravel base. Why is drainage important? Because Empire Polo Club has also installed water at each tie rail so you can wash your horses after they play. Convenience for players is a priority at Empire Polo Club.
The fields are immaculate and reports from summer players are excellent. Last year Empire added 350 tons of sand to each field. This summer they are adding an additional 500 tons of sand to each field. They plan to change their renovation process during over-seeding and they will leave more of a base to provide an even better playing surface for this coming winter.
Rick Paicius, who will be playing at Empire Polo Club this coming season, stopped by for a visit last week. He said “Empire Polo Club looks beautiful. There is sand on the fields, more trees planted and flowers everywhere.”
Trish Fitzgerald has been playing on all three fields at Empire for the past two months. She said “The added sand has made the fields soft and nice for the horses legs. The new trees and plants have made the club even more scenic, if that is even possible. It was already a beautiful polo club and they are continuing to add to it. Playing polo at Empire is a great way to start the day!”
The barn area along field 3 has been equipped with automatic fly spray units in the stalls and down the aisles. The club is in the process of adding these units to the stabling areas by their new arena, which is located across the road from Empire’s offices. The new, regulation-sized polo arena will be used as the headquarters for Empire’s New Polo School. The lesson program will offer both arena and grass lessons including a coaching league that will also be held on the grass. More details about the Empire Polo School will be published on PoloZONE and on Empire’s website and facebook page in the weeks to come.
New turnout paddocks, new stabling areas and three new exercise tracks are also included in the master plan that will be ready for use by November 2010. Each stabling area will have access to it’s own track area. Players don’t have to pony their horses across the polo club campus for their daily work routine. The convenient track locations save time and provide multiple areas for members to work their horses.
The barns areas, tie rails and new tracks aren’t the only improvements that are new this season. A new grandstand and VIP areas have been set-up for the comfort of members and spectators along the west side of the field #3, which is the main field for Sunday games.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Empire’s fields, the Rose Garden that flanks the south side of Field #3 is home to 8,000 rose bushes of 107 varieties from all over the world. An original, life-sized statue created by sculptor Rich Roenisch titled “She Gave Her Best,” can be viewed as you meander through the garden paths.
Just past the rose garden, on the west side of the field, a special VIP area is being built. The centerpiece is a grandstand with private, field-side boxes. The private boxes will be available to social and playing members during the season. The Pavilion, located to the left of the grandstand is a covered patio set-up with tables and a bar to serve as a second, field-side VIP area. For those of you who prefer to tailgate, Empire will provide access for cars to drive to VIP tailgate spots, which can be reserved by the weekend or for the season. The tailgating section will be on the right side of the grandstand and other accessible areas along the sidelines.
The east side of the field will also be open for spectators and players to park field-side or to bring their chairs and picnic along the sidelines. Admission is free to all games. The VIP areas can be accessed for a reasonable admission fee or as part of a playing or social membership package.
Steve Crowder used these words to describe the transformation of polo in the desert and the rise of Empire Polo Club as a major polo venue on the west coast. “The desert polo scene is finally leaving the bunkhouse and heading to the country club as the lions begin to roar at Empire Polo Club. With Al Haagen at the helm, the dusty trails will disappear along with the shacks.”
If you are on the fence about where to play this season, take a peek on Empire’s side of the fence. Look at the improvements, partnerships, staff and individuals who are involved at Empire Polo Club. Mr. Haagen, owner of Empire Polo Club, has created a world-class polo destination and venue at Empire Polo Club. All of the improvements that Empire has been working on this year are for the polo players and spectators. Mr. Haagen has established several key, strategic partnerships that bring together well-maintained polo fields, teams from multiple clubs and a very seasoned polo staff. This combination is what polo in the desert needs in order to grow.
Chris Maloney, owner of Twin Palms Polo Club and Graham Bray, General Manager of Twin Palms Polo Club have decided to merge their 8-10 Goal league with Empire’s 8-10 Goal league. When asked about the upcoming season Chris Maloney said “Twin Palms Polo Club is thrilled to join forces with Empire Polo Club to bring desert polo to the high standard it deserves. We bring with us a group of dedicated polo players, two world-class polo fields, and a management team second to none. Not only will we have great polo for the public eye, our members and players will be pleased about union of clubs. Twin Palms is looking forward to a prosperous season for all.”
Kevin Ittig of Rancho Polo has joined the partnership by offering their field for use by Empire’s leagues. The partnership between these three clubs brings together a total of 10 fields for use during their winter season.
Last, but not least I would like to talk about the Empire staff that will be “serving you” this season. Yes, they will be serving you … catering to the needs of the playing members and the social members. As a world-class polo destination, Empire Polo Club will offer players and spectators excellent service, competitive polo and fun parties.
Let’s take a look at who is on their roster for this coming season. Susan Stovall has been working as a consultant to develop the polo playing membership at Empire Polo Club. Her experience and contacts have been a great asset to the Club. Her sister, Gratia Brown will be the Assistant Polo Manager. Gratia will help set-up the fields for play, oversee the flaggers, score sheets and the many details that are needed to make polo run smoothly and on time. Vicky Owens is Empire’s Polo Manager. She has be a long-term fixture in the desert polo community. As the Polo Manager of Empire Polo Club, she will oversee the game scheduling and the stabling for all playing members. “If there’s something we haven’t thought of to make this a great polo destination, please let us know, there’s still time to consider your request” said Vicky. She will coordinate the 8-10 goal polo schedule with Graham Bray, Polo Manager of Twin Palms Polo Club.
Tony Schieffer has been recruited as the Director of Social Membership & Advertising Sales for Empire Polo Club. Many of you may remember him from when he worked for the polo club next door in 2009. Tony’s knowledge of polo combined with his private country club background will bring a new level of service and fun to the social events and membership at the club. Tony will also be handling the sponsorship and ad sales for the Club.
Polo 101 has been contracted to help Empire market and grow their new polo school and to promote their Sunday Polo. Empire plans to offer lesson specials and clinics for new students. We will also be launching a new Sunday Polo Promotion through Polo 101. More details will be posted when the program is up and running.
I’m also excited to announce that I will be working with Empire this season as their marketing coordinator. I’ll be overseeing the production of their printed program and collateral materials, assisting with sales and social events and providing photography services.
I encourage all of you to join our mailing list and our social network, so you can receive up-to-date information about what is going on the Empire Polo Club including all of our up-coming social events. Links to sign-up are provided at the end of this article.
The Polo Staff at Empire Polo Club is very excited about the 2010-2011 season. We welcome your questions and we would like to extend an invitation for you to join us this season. Everyone is welcome at Empire Polo Club.
If you would like more information about Empire Polo Club’s playing or social memberships, please call or send us an email. If you would like a private tour of the Empire Polo Club, please contact Vicky or Tony. They we would be happy to show you the club.
Empire Polo Club Contacts
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