Bellissimo’s International Polo Club grand plan impressive, ambitious

Ever since Mark Bellissimo bought the International Polo Club in March, questions have swirled about plans for his most expensive Wellington purchase since buying the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center about a decade ago.

The CEO of Wellington Equestrian Partners has only made veiled references to having more events on the grounds.

But his plans are now starting to become more clear — and they’re big.

The company recently submitted a 74-page application to the village seeking permission to build an equestrian stadium with banquet facilities, four barns with 624 stalls, five equestrian show rings, paved and grass parking, golf cart parking, expansion of the clubhouse and restaurant and two new tennis courts.

Though the project is likely months and numerous meetings away from the Village Council, it’s already on the radar for the elected officials.

The prospect of the new show rings taking some of the traffic stress off Pierson Road and South Shore Boulevard is appealing, said Vice Mayor John McGovern.

He believes a vibrant International Polo Club will be beneficial for the village as a whole.

“Having something that’s exiting happening there is ultimately a good thing,” he said.

Wellington staff and the various committees will have to work through some of the particulars of the application, but he is hopeful the final product is something everyone can agree on.

Bellissimo has certainly made a splash since arriving in Wellington, but whether his presence has been a positive depends on who is asked.

The developer has significantly grown the Winter Equestrian Festival, and built Equestrian Village where his group hosts the Global Dressage Festival.

He completed the equestrian trifecta when his group purchased the International Polo Club for $72 million from a trust affiliated with imprisoned founder John Goodman. He also bought the Wanderers Club golf course from the trust. In a separate application, Bellissimo wants to add 6,000 square feet onto the clubhouse and build a 4,000 square-foot service building on the property.

But some of the public perception of Bellissimo and his efforts have been marred because of a high-profile feud with billionaire Jeremy Jacobs. The businessman and his family have opposed the construction and growth in the equestrian preserve, which can largely be tied to Bellissimo and his partners.

The two most recently did battle during the March election when they spent millions fighting over a referendum question that effectively banned any hotels or apartments from ever being built in the preserve. Jacobs won that tilt, halting any potential future plans for Bellissimo to build a hotel.

Any more specifics about the Polo Club project remain murky for now. Bellissimo did not give an interview on the subject, despite numerous requests.

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