Polo Players Edition

DEC 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, PART 2 L ast month, the origins of are- na polo in the United States and its development along the East Coast were summarized in considerable detail. This month I continue the story with the game's spread to other parts of the coun- try, principally to the Midwest as well as to several of the northern tier of western states. Turning first to the Midwest, not sur- prisingly, Chicago would become a major participant on the indoor scene with a number of facilities, including two big armories as well as a large riding hall and one outdoor arena. The first to take up the baton was the Chicago Riding Club, which played its first game in 1924 in its brand new rid- ing hall, which measured 305 feet by 130 feet surrounded by a generous balcony section for the viewing public. The build- ing could also accommodate an astound- ing 500 horses. Among the teams that played at the Chicago Riding Club were the elite Chicago Black Horse Troop (106th Caval- ry) and the 122nd Field Artillery Battal- ion as both had active polo programs. Ini- tially, the troop rented space at the Chicago Riding Club, while the battalion was stationed at the original part (the eastern section) of the Chicago Avenue Armory. Unfortunately, around 1936, the Chicago Riding Club fell victim to hard times and its complex was converted to an ice skating rink known as the Chicago Arena, thus leaving the Black Horse Troop without a home. At this point the Illinois Armory Board stepped up to the plate by constructing a major addition (the western wing) to the Chicago Avenue Armory so that both the troop and battal- ion could be housed there. This greatly- expanded facility was formally dedicated in February 1940 at which time the Chicago Black Horse Troop and the 122nd Field Artillery Battalion played their last polo game before the war. After the war, the armory enjoyed a very strong comeback in indoor polo that lasted from about 1948 to 1982. Leslie Struggles provided this amusing recollec- tion from that era when she and her hus- band Kirk regularly attended matches there: "Apparently, there was no heat at all, so the place was literally freezing. You had to be bundled up with winter coats plus hats, gloves and scarves!" In addition to play at the Chicago Rid- ing Club and the Chicago Avenue Armory, the 122nd Field Artillery Battal- ion during these interwar years super- vised matches at the Lincolnwood Arena, which were advertised as "indoor polo outdoors." Another driving force for arena polo in the Chicagoland area was the 124th Field Artillery Armory on the south side of the city (52nd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue), which would emerge not only as a significant hub for the game in the interwar years regionally but also as a major presence nationally. Completed in January 1931, this Art Deco gem pro- claimed itself as "the largest and finest armory in the world." Certainly, its size claims were no exaggeration as the facili- ty possessed one of the largest playing fields anywhere (330 feet x 140 feet) com- plemented by a seating capacity for 6000 patrons and some 3,000-4,000 standees! The armory may also very well have been the busiest in the country. Its well structured Metropolitan Polo League Back to the future: arena polo in the Midwest D E N N I S J . A M A T O Pansy Elisabeth Ireland, one of the pioneers of women's polo, played an indoor match at Troop A Armory in Cleveland, Ohio in 1930. Ireland is in the white shirt.

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