Some short term pain will mean long term gain at Spruce Meadows.
Several capital projects are now underway at the world-famous equestrian centre aimed at improving access for the fans, exposure for the sponsors and comfort for the horses and riders.
Officials usually do one capital project a year, said Spruce Meadows CEO Linda Southern-Heathcott, but they decided to do more in 2010 in celebration of their 35th anniversary.
“Typically, what happens each year is we pick a capital project and it focuses on one constituent of Spruce Meadows,” she said.
“It will either be the athletes, the sponsors, the media or the fans but this year we’ve focused on all four.”
Fans will benefit from the biggest and most ambitious undertaking — an expansion and beautification of the Lower Plaza, the first of a three-stage project that will transform the area between the International Ring and Meadows on the Green into a Central Park of sorts.
Currently surrounded by fencing, once finished, the Lower Plaza will feature a promenade, permanent home for Flavours of the World, better seating, improved lighting and a few aesthetic touches like flowers and ornamental trees.
“We’re opening it up, beautifying it and defining the space a little bit more,” said Southern-Heathcott.
“Then what we can do in the wintertime is when we have our Christmas Market, we can have a little skating rink there.”
Phase two will see the Terrace Halls — including the Sun Room and Superstore Park — upgraded with permanent buildings next year, while phase three will see the Upper Plaza redeveloped in 2012.
Another part of this year’s work will make getting into Spruce Meadows a little easier for the 500,000 fans who flock there each year as Tournament Road is being twinned, several parking lots will be paved and a new flag park entrance is being be built on the northeast corner.
To help the riders, new competition rings are being added near the west paddock along with a working rings, lunging areas and a satellite tournament office.
“They’ll come down to compete, but pretty much, they can do everything in the quarantine area where the stabling is now,” said Southern-Heathcott.
“It means more access, more room and better footing.”
For the sponsors, video boards were added to the International Ring, one in the clock tower and another along the wall at the north end.
“They used to be a static leader board with stats. Now, it’s wholly video,” said Southern-Heathcott.
“And in the skyboxes, we have new windows.”
Work on the projects began in April and should be finished in time for the Masters, running Sept. 8-12.