The famed Grand Prix field is seeing grass of a different color.
The two-acre Bridgehampton arena, which plays host to the annual Hampton Classic, is getting a $1 million makeover, consisting of a new base layer and Kentucky bluegrass sod blend.
The renovation wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision; it was modeled after the Dublin Horse Show in Ireland and Spruce Meadows in Canada.
“After much study and discussion, the decision was made to completely renovate our grass,” said Lisa Deslauriers, chairman of the Hampton Classic Board of Directors. “As always, the safety and well-being of our horses and riders is of first and foremost concern and we are thrilled that we were able to come up with a plan to improve the footing while maintaining our tradition of a grass field.”
First, the ground will be coated with stabilization textile, perforated piping, rock drainage, and an eight-inch layer of topsoil/sand/fiber. The sod will be a Kentucky bluegrass/tall fescue mix. The installation will be completed by mid-November, and the field will aerate and fertilize in the spring to encourage the roots to grow down into the soil material. The field will also benefit from some of the capital improvements made in recent years, such as perimeter drainage, a new well, and a new irrigation system. The project is expected to be completed in time for the 44th annual Hampton Classic, August 25 to September 1, 2019.
The job is being managed by Allen Rheinheimer, the show’s equestrian manager, with Hampton Classic’s turf consultant Steven McDonald. Founder of Turfgrass Disease Solutions LLC, McDonald consults for more than 150 athletic fields, golf courses, and unique turfgrass systems each year. He received a B.S. in turfgrass management from Delaware Valley College and a M.S. in agronomy from University of Maryland. He is currently an instructor at Rutgers University, where he teaches turf management and turfgrass weed science.
The 2018 Hampton Classic hosted 1600 horses and riders of all ages and abilities who competed in more than 200 classes — hunter, jumper, and equitation — in six show rings. Riders from 12 nations, including Olympic and World Cup champions, competed at the event, which culminated in a victory by McLain Ward.
“I am excited at the prospect of having outstanding grass footing in our field,” said Dennis Suskind, Hampton Classic’s board president. “I am confident this project will get us there.”