LEXINGTON, KY -- You can see it from the parking lot. An imposing open structure of hunter green and limestone blocks, shading the seats that surround the large outdoor arena where, in earlier days, gladiators might have battled, reports The Lexington Herald-Leader in its Saturday edition.
But on Friday, it was one rider, one horse performing alone for a bank of judges and a bevy of onlookersin the first competition held in the Kentucky Horse Park's new $25 million outdoor stadium.
The riders and their magnificent mounts got much of the applause. The rest of the day's praise went to the stadium. And, by inference, to the Horse Park and the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games committee which, by the looks of things, has aced the first gate in showing the public its preparedness for next year's big show.
"The structure is amazing," said Penny Lowman, who has been to the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event a dozen times since 1978. She remembers when the pond was at the center of the arena, and it was all more bucolic than it is now.
"The pond was kind of a signature of the event," she said, but added that she doesn't miss it now — because, well, it's still there, though obscured some by added seating. And when that seating is framed by blue skies and flags that snap smartly in the wind, the pond is just window dressing.
"I miss it, but I don't miss it. The World Equestrian Games are so huge. It had to happen," she said, then asked if anyone knew of a good house to rent come October 2010.
"It's all very well done, just fantastic," said Mary Lou Davies of Asheville, N.C., who has been coming to the Three-Day Event with her husband, Gerald, for three years. "It's what you'd expect of Kentucky. It doesn't intrude on the landscape. It's not flashy. And the view from the stands is terrific. There's not a seat that has an obscured view, I don't think."
They, too, are planning to return to Lexington in the fall of next year.
Not everyone was talking views. There's much excitement about the indoor flush toilets. (Before, the only facilities near the stadium were port-a-potties.) Women get 30 stalls, men get 12, plus 15 urinals. Even in the thick of competition Friday, no waiting.
The one place where there was waiting was in front of the stadium, where, early on, everyone wanted a picture taken with the statue of Bruce Davidson Sr. and his horse, Eagle Lion, tackling a cross-country jump.
The statue, dedicated last year, was finished before the stadium and used to be seen jumping into the duck pond near the Horse Park Museum, reprots The Lexington Herald-Leader.
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