By Maureen Werther
Saratoga Polo, the iconic polo venue located in Greenfield, could be the site of some major residential and commercial development, according to plans being developed by ownership.
Jim Rossi, one of the owners of Saratoga Polo, is optimistic about the future of the historic Whitney playing fields and the proposed development plans for the venue located just outside the city of Saratoga Springs.
Negotiations have been in the works for a deal to develop a residential and commercial site around the Saratoga Polo fields since late spring of 2016. Plans are still being finalized. In July, it was reported that Rossi and Bucci were hoping to close a deal before being put into foreclosure by First National Bank of Scotia.
By October, Rossi and Bucci announced a partnership with The Michaels Group, one of the largest homebuilders in the region, and Carver Laraway, owner of the Port of Coeymans, to implement the plans to create a year-round residential and commercial property.
The development would be around the polo grounds and polo matches would continue each year.
“There is a process involved to get to the end result,” said Rossi.
While the original idea had been to create a resort-type community of vacation residences surrounding the fields, the plan has evolved and Rossi sees the development now as including primary residences or second homes for people with dual residences. He said the property would be maintenance-free and include a number of amenities, including a spa.
All plans are still in the formative stages and, while the commercial side of the plan is still being formulated, the main focus at this point, according to Rossi, is on the residential side. However, Rossi stressed that there are plans being made to build a large permanent event facility.
The town of Greenfield already approved a plan for development of residential units in 2007. “Obviously, we are modifying that plan,” said Rossi.
When Rossi and Bucci purchased the property in 2004, they understood its importance as a landmark property in the area and have been committed to re-building its reputation as a world-class polo venue, he said. But they also saw the potential for other opportunities on the property, and were in the midst of developing their plan just before the economy turned sour in 2008.
Despite the economic downturn, Rossi and Bucci have succeeded in expanding the polo attraction and drawing larger audiences to matches. In addition, the location is a popular venue for weddings, galas, and other large events. Those are held in the clubhouse and in its custom-designed, glass-enclosed, formal white event tent. The restaurant arm of the business also does catering.
In addition to the clubhouse, which seats approximately 100 guests, the adjacent tent can accommodate 400 people and has become home to large fundraisers such as “Polo by Twilight,” the “White Party,” and many corporate and private events.
Rossi has a sports marketing background and has been instrumental in gaining national sponsorships for polo in Saratoga, as well as other polo venues across the country, including regular television coverage of polo events on NBC. He became chief marketing officer of the U.S. Polo Association in 2013 and was heavily involved in taking its marketing entity to a new level.
While the 2017 season programming is already in place, Rossi and Bucci will continue to finalize their plans, first for the residential component of the development.
“It has taken some time to put the right pieces together, and it is all based on the understanding that polo is the attraction and this is a landmark property. We want to have an economically viable plan, one that is sustainable,” said Rossi.
The plan is to keep the polo field intact and continue with the regularly scheduled 2017 matches and events during planning and construction.
Throughout the entire process, Rossi continues to be emphatic that polo remains the driving force behind the project.
“We are heavily into planning the 2017 season and there will be no interruptions of events or matches. The final outcome is to create something that all works together to sustain polo for years to come.”