Letter from USDF President George Williams on future venues for US Dressage Finals
November 24, 2015
Dear USDF Governance Representatives:
The U.S. Dressage Finals have quickly become a major destination competition and have incentivized many competitors. This has helped to increase entries at most of the GAIG/USDF Regional Championships. From the start, the Finals have received many accolades for successfully creating a true championship atmosphere for our Adult Amateurs, as well as for the Open riders. We are now at a crossroads and I, along with the EB, want your input into the future of the Finals.
Many of you will remember that at the 2011 USDF Convention in San Diego, CA, the Board of Governors approved a motion creating a national head to head championship, which later came to be named the U.S. Dressage Finals. The motion stated that the Finals were to rotate east and west every three years. The motion in its entirety can be found at the link below:
Following that directive in 2014, we underwent a search process for a possible venue in the west. We received detailed proposals from several venues and ultimately Janine Malone, as chair of the Organizing Committee, and I followed up with site visits and reported back to the search committee as well as the EB. Due to concerns, the EB voted to keep the Finals at the Kentucky Horse Park (KHP) for 2016 and postponed moving the Finals west until 2017, allowing us more time to further investigate possible venues. After extensive research, which included additional site visits by Janine and myself, the EB voted to move forward and start negotiations with the HITS facility in Thermal, California.
Thermal has been very cooperative to work with and has helped us obtain numbers for the preliminary budget. Although Thermal does not have an indoor stadium like the Alltech Arena at the KHP, Janine and I both felt that this venue has many outstanding attributes and it is possible to create a championship atmosphere; albeit quite different than what we have at the KHP.
We have carefully studied the numbers for a Finals to be held at Thermal, both financial and in terms of potential entries. These can be viewed at Our main questions are whether we will receive enough entries to make the Finals economically viable over a three year period, and what does it take to make it a true Finals. Participation statistics as well as the average number of rides per competitor have been carefully analyzed over the first three years in Kentucky and have been used for budgeting purposes. The preliminary budget numbers for Thermal indicate that we will need approximately 350 entries (871 rides) to achieve a balanced budget in Thermal. This is very similar to what we have found in Kentucky. After studying possible entry numbers, under the current system we anticipate that we would receive approximately 225 entries (600 rides) in Thermal, especially for the first year. That would leave us with a budget deficit of $74,000. This is very similar to the loss we had the first year in Kentucky. However, in 2014 we saw a substantial increase in the number of competitors and we showed a profit. In 2015 the entry numbers were down slightly from 2014 and we predict we will show a small profit. The goal has always been to break even or show a small profit. The question is will we be able to increase entries in 2018 and 2019 in Thermal.
A breakdown of how we arrived at the estimated number of 225 entries (600 rides) is athttp://www.usdf.org/zip/governance/index.asp , along with a snap shot review of the past three Finals and a mileage comparison chart showing distances from major cities to Thermal and Lexington. The question of what makes a Finals is a difficult one and can be looked at in many ways. I think we all agree that first and foremost is having the best of each level and division compete. Beyond that, are we looking for an average number of competitors in each of the Finals classes? If so, then ten might be that number, which would translate to 300 total entries. Are we looking for representation from each of the nine Regions? Personally, I keep coming back to 300 as a minimum number of entries. Experience has shown us though that a financially sustainable number is closer to 350 entries. Perhaps, in the end it is more about creating a special ambience. The championship atmosphere we have been able to achieve in Kentucky has certainly helped to make the Finals a destination event and we want that atmosphere to continue, no matter where the event is located.
Many of us on the Organizing Committee and the EB have received comments from competitors and licensed officials that the Finals should remain at the KHP.
Due to the potential long term repercussions of this decision we are now asking the Board of Governors to take under consideration whether the Finals should move west and approve Thermal as the site of the 2017-2019 U.S. Dressage Finals. Please be prepared to discuss this further at the convention and during the meeting of the BOG in Las Vegas.
Please go to the Governance Discussion Topics page at to view the following:
1) Letter from USDF President regarding 2017 Finals
2) USDF National Dressage Championships - Original Motion
3) US Dressage Finals "Snapshot" Review
4) Mileage Comparison (driving miles using Mapquest)
5) Breakdown by Region of Estimated Entries
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