Creating an Equestrian Destination

WestWorld of Scottsdale Tony Nelssen Equestrian Center

  • Scottsdale
  • 2013

CHALLENGE.  Scottsdale, Arizona has long been home to WestWorld, one of the nation’s premier equestrian sport and event complexes that hosts events including the original Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction and the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show (the world’s largest for the breed). Over the past decade, Populous’ equestrian group has been involved with the continuing renovation of the site, including the original master plan led by Todd Gralla. While WestWorld of Scottsdale, which opened in 1987, features ten arenas, 1,200 permanent stalls and a multi-purpose exhibit space, the Equidome on site is considered one of the most important venues. In early 2010, Westworld set out to modernize and expand the Equidome, now known as the Tony Nelssen Equestrian Center, with a $56 million renovation that includes the addition of climate-controlled multi-use floor for stalls, arenas or trade booths, an indoor warm-up ring, suites, party rooms and enhanced spectator amenities, the likes of which are a rarity at equestrian venues.

The challenges were numerous for the design team. They were dealing with an existing steel structure that was to be essentially kept intact to save time and money. Meanwhile, designers were required to devise a plan for the facility to be fully functional and operate for the entirety of the two-year renovation process. In addition, the design team had to carefully consider how to reconfigure the existing venue to ensure space for updated fan amenities crucial to revenue generation, including new suites, party rooms and foodservice, without making changes to the existing seating bowl or reducing seating capacity.

INNOVATION.  The 5,000 seat Tony Nelssen Equestrian Center is already one of the largest on the West Coast and considered an important example of a venue that, while multi-purpose, is specifically designed with equestrian competitors and audiences in mind. In turn, the renovation included additions that would elevate the profile of the venue and make it a viable entity for years to come.  The venue is climate-controlled, including the addition of an indoor warm-up arena and an additional 218,000 square feet of clear-span flex space for horse stalls, indoor arenas, trade shows and other multi-purpose uses. The project, when completed, will double the size of the venue while reducing event turnaround time and labor and diminishing the need for temporary add-on infrastructure or event overlay.

The existing open-air Equidome has been fully enclosed and conditioned, in order to ensure the space is usable in the summer months when temperatures can climb to more than 120 degrees. Featuring a dual climate control/natural ventilation system, the only of its kind in the country, the venue can circulate 100% fresh air to maximize air quality or mixed air depending on the type of event being held. In the winter months when the weather is mild, the renovations will allow for the space to be opened up and naturally ventilated. Targeted to meet LEED Silver Certification, the facility will be the only equestrian venue of its kind to do so to date.

IMPACT. The WestWorld of  Scottsdale Tony Nelssen Equestrian Center is among the elite equestrian venues in the nation and draws some of the nation’s most prestigious equestrian events, trade shows, and auto shows to Scottsdale.