Fort Worth is raising the bar on its efforts to establish itself as an international equestrian destination as it prepares a bid to host one of the biggest equestrian competitions in the world in 2026.
City council is set to approve an agreement with Visit Fort Worth and Split Rock Jumping Tour, LLC, to host the 2026 FEI World Cup Finals for Jumping and Dressage. Included in the agreement is an outline of cost-sharing procedures, should Fort Worth secure the right to host the event.
“I think this only adds to the appeal of Fort Worth,” Mike Crum, director of public events for the City of Fort Worth, said. “Which is, as you know, arguably the epicenter of the equestrian business in the United States.”
The FEI World Cup is held annually, primarily in Europe and the United States, and attracts world-class equestrian competitors hoping to leave their mark on the sport. The last time the Cup was held in the U.S. was 2017, when international riders descended upon Omaha, Nebraska to compete. Omaha is also hosting the competition in 2023. In 2024, it will be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, only the second time it has been held outside of the U.S. or Europe since its 1979 inception.
Fort Worth to enter cost-sharing agreement
- City will pay a host fee of up to $110,000.
- City and Visit Fort Worth will both pay for preparations necessary to conduct the event, including rental for Dickies Arena, marketing and event catering.
- City will contribute an additional amount up to $900,000.
- Visit Fort Worth will contribute an amount up to $500,000.
- City and Visit Fort Worth will utilize the Events Trust Fund payment to help offset the costs of the event, estimated at $1.6 million
- Split Rock will pay the remaining expenses from event revenues, estimated at $6.6 million in fiscal year 2026.
- City, Visit Fort Worth, and Split Rock will participate in a 1/3 split of all profit generated from the event
- City’s share of profit (or loss) is capped at $1 million
- Visit Fort Worth’s share of profit (or loss) is capped at $500,000.
- Split Rock benefits from the remaining profit (or covers the remaining loss)
According to a report to the City Council, FEI invited Fort Worth to bid on hosting the Cup after the success of a FEI World Cup qualifier event at Will Rogers Memorial Center in December. That event capped off the 2021 Split Rock Jumping Tour, which will return to Fort Worth each December until 2025. Jason Sands, Vice President of Sports and Executive Director of the Sports Commission, said the city’s relationship with Split Rock began before the pandemic, when Will Rogers secured a three-year deal for World Cup qualifiers.
“We sat down and talked about the game plan for their World Cup qualifier,” he said. “And I think once they saw Dickies Arena and they saw just how magnificent that facility was, they instantly thought it could be a potential location or venue for the World Cup.”
City officials spent time showing FEI officials around the facilities during the winter qualifier, and it appears to have paid off.
“Just the fact that we were invited to submit a proposal to host this event is a sign of how much Fort Worth has improved as a destination to host special events,” Crum said.
Crum believes the city is competing against Gothenburg, Sweden, a longtime host of the FEI World Cup. Gothenburg has secured the bid 15 times since the event began.
“I think given that we were invited to the dance mighty late so to speak, and the partnership that we were able to put together and the support that we were able to solicit from the mayor and council, I think we feel great about our chances,” Crum said.
A final decision on where the FEI World Cup will be hosted is expected in June, according to Crum. If Fort Worth is selected, locals may have several hometown favorites to root for. Christian Heineking and Erin Davis-Heineking are both riders based right outside of Fort Worth, at October Hill Farm. Christian previously competed in the 2017 World Cup Final, and both he and Erin competed in the December qualifier last year.
“We live in an equestrian town, we know how much money people can invest in their equestrian hobbies, for lack of a better term,” Crum said.
According to a city staff report, the budget for the proposed Fort Worth event forecasts $11.3 million in revenues and $8.1 million in expenses. The report says the event must generate 72% of forecasted revenues to break even.
The forecasted attendance for the event in Fort Worth is 60,000 and an estimated $21 million in direct spending. Attendance in previous U.S. cities was 86,000 in Las Vegas in 2007 and 52,119 in Omaha in 2017. An economic impact study for the 2016 event in Gothenburg, Sweden, from Deloitte estimated 30,371 unique visitors, 81,000 in total event attendance and $18.5 million in direct spending.
The report notes that the 2019 event, also held in Gothenburg, was broadcast in 130 countries and generated 887 million impressions across all media platforms.
If Fort Worth is awarded the 2026 event, it will have a lot new to show off by then. The four-story Bowie House Hotel near the intersection of Camp Bowie Boulevard and Montgomery Street and the Crescent Fort Worth, a 200-room luxury hotel at Camp Bowie Boulevard and Van Cliburn Way, will both be open by then.
“We have something for everybody in Fort Worth,” Sands said. “It feels like home, it’s easy to navigate, the Western hospitality is on full display here. And we know how to support these events to make sure they’re set up for success. That was one of the messages we drove home to the leadership at FEI.”
Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.