The Kentucky Horse Park has submitted a letter expressing formal interest in the 2022 World Equestrian Games.
The Féderation Equestre Internationale informed the state and the U.S. Equestrian Federation that they will be notified in December if they have made the shortlist of official candidates for the international horse sport championships.
“We are hoping we would at least make this first cut,” said Horse park commission chairwoman Tandy Patrick on Wednesday. She said they are waiting until then to begin making formal plans for the bid process.
Addressing the question of naming rights for the Rolex Stadium at the park “will be one of the first agenda items if we’re accepted,” she said.
In 2010, Rolex agreed to pay $1.2 million over 10 years for naming rights for the $25 million stadium. That sponsorship expires at the end of 2019, Patrick said.
“We’re obviously very grateful to Rolex,” Patrick said. The stadium was built to accommodate show jumping and dressage, two of the disciplines that held world championships at the 2010 World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Without the help of Rolex “it would have been challenging,” Patrick said. “We would have had to put up a lot more temporary seating.”
But the sponsorship apparently doomed Kentucky’s bid to repeat at WEG host for 2018; the state lost out to Canada, which subsequently had to withdraw, after the FEI signed a long-term “top sponsor” deal with rival Swiss watchmaker Longines in 2013.
The Longines deal is reportedly worth at least $130 million over 10 years, which apparently would run at least through the 2022 games.
If the Rolex stadium sponsorship is not renewed, the Kentucky Horse Park will need to find a new sponsor to make up the lost revenue, Patrick said. They also hoped that another way could be found for Rolex to continue its support at the park, she added.
Rolex also has been a decades-long sponsor of the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, the horse park’s marquee event that draws an Olympic-level field to compete annually in Kentucky. Known as “the Rolex Kentucky” in the horse world, the event is produced by Equestrian Events Inc., a separate non-profit headquartered at the park.