Polo Players Edition

NOV 2018

Polo Players' Edition is the official publication of the U.S. Polo Association. Dedicated to the sport of polo, it features player profiles, game strategy, horse care, playing tips, polo club news and tournament results.

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60 POLO P L A Y E R S E D I T I O N Y E S T E R Y E A R S FULL CIRCLE I n the October 2016 issue of Polo Players' Edition there was a fascinat- ing article entitled "Building Walls, Arenas may be the answer to polo sustainability." In the piece, the author, Peter Rizzo made a convincing case that there was no better place to learn to ride or to play polo than within the confines of an enclosed space, such as a polo arena. An arena can also showcase fast and furious polo competition with spectators or potential players getting a chance to watch the action up close. Ironically, we may very well be coming full circle with arena polo in the long his- tory of the game in the United States. After all, the conventional storyline runs that polo was brought to our shores from England in the winter of 1876 by James Gordon Bennett where the first games were played indoors in the Dickel's Rid- ing Academy in New York (although the preeminent polo historian Horace Laf- faye suggests the sport may actually have been introduced into our country years earlier by some Englishmen in Texas). Although these initial American polo forays were held indoors in 1876, once the weather warmed up, play quickly shifted outdoors, first to Jerome Park and then a year or two later to the original Polo Grounds. Periodic attempts at arena polo were undertaken intermittently in the early 1900s in the New York area at places like Tchchor Grands' Sale & Riding Academy, the Brooklyn Riding & Driving Club and Durland's Riding Academy but met with only limited acceptance. A more ambitious effort to promote the game occurred in 1910 when the National Indoor Polo Association was launched. However, this consortium of clubs was short-lived and it really wasn't until the formation of the Indoor Polo Association of America (IPA) in 1915 by George Sherman and others that arena polo finally gained some traction. In many respects, the period that ensued from 1915 until the outbreak of the Sec- ond World War was to emerge as the First Golden Age of Arena Polo. To a great extent, the higher-profile indoor polo being played during these interwar years—as well as in the immedi- ate postwar period—revolved around an extensive network of military armories that honeycombed a good portion of the northeast and the upper midwest por- tions of the country. These were supple- mented by a number of riding halls and other facilities. Among the armories, undoubtedly, the most famous and one of the most active was Squadron A in Manhattan located at Madison Avenue and 94th Street. Over time, Squadron A arguably was to gain pride of place as the doyen of indoor polo venues and would establish for itself a role similar to that of the renowned Meadow Brook Club as its outdoor coun- terpart of the game. Built in the late 1800s in the style of a 14th-century French fortress, Squadron A ranked as one of the largest and most impressive armories in the United States. Among its many attributes that made it ideal for indoor polo were its substantial stabling facilities and its huge 300 feet by 180 feet "drill room" with a dirt floor. Although somewhat limited, the arena did offer very good seating, particularly with its raised grandstands along the two long sides. Thus, it was no surprise that Squadron A attracted quite a loyal follow- ing to its numerous games over the years. A staple on the New York sporting scene were its Saturday night events, which started promptly at 8:30 p.m. and where tickets could be purchased at fairly reasonable prices (e.g. $1.25-$1.50). The sophistication of the operation was fur- ther evidenced by the sale of large and Back to the future: Arena polo on the East Coast B Y D E N N I S J . A M A T O Opened in 1916, Yale Armory had a 220-foot by 100-foot playing surface as well as stabling for up to 120 horses. The facility had a nearly 100-year-old existence, having closed in 2009.

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