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Rolex opens Horse Park's new stadium

When the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event starts Thursday, under much-hoped-for sunny skies, competitors and spectators will be in a new venue for much of the competition.

The $24 million outdoor stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park was finished in time to host the dressage and jumping phases of the event. The stadium now seats 7,289, with more than half of the seats covered. Rolex organizers have added about 8,000 uncovered temporary seats, which will be expanded even more next year when the stadium hosts the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

On Wednesday, Gov. Steve Beshear cut the ribbon to open the new stadium, which organizers say will bring a host of new equestrian events to the Horse Park.

"It's exciting because it's clearly the beginning of what promises to be a great future," said Horse Park Director John Nicholson. "There's lots of reasons good things are happening, but none of them would have happened if Rolex had not been such a success, so it's fitting that the first thing that will happen here is the Rolex Three-Day event."

The stadium features a sophisticated German footing, layers of surface that have already received acclaim from riders.

"Under the old footing, the amount of rain we've had in the last couple of days would have been the source of great consternation," Nicholson said. "That is dramatically less because of this new footing, which drains very well, but doesn't dry out."