Scottsdale public relations executive — and co-owner and co-founder of the annual polo classic every fall — Jason Rose is a beer guy, who knew?
And, Mr. Rose says, he will be enjoying some ice cold beers before, during and after the upcoming Scottsdale Polo Classic on Saturday, Nov. 7.
Under a new name for this special year, the Stella Artois Polo Classic: Presented by Ketel One will feature a one-day polo event at WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Road. Just like everything else this year, the event will be slightly different than years past, but Mr. Rose ensures the entertainment won’t waver.
Mr. Rose first started the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships in 2011, and grew it to be a unique mix of polo matches, wonderful outfits, specialty cars, top-notch food and drink — and above all, a beautiful day in Scottsdale.
Leading up to Nov. 7, we asked Mr. Rose about returning a modified event to Scottsdale despite fluid COVID-19 concerns. He walks us through the name change, hearing feedback from their patrons, and what he’s most looking forward to this year.
In September, the polo classic announced it received final approval from the city of Scottsdale to host the one-day outdoor event.
As part of the city-approved changes for 2020, The Stella Artois Polo Classic will feature an extensive social-distancing plan, that also incorporates a social-distancing enforcement team, mandatory masks, sanitation stations, temperature checks and an all open-air approach with tables, lattice fencing and umbrellas instead of tents to make guests as comfortable as possible.
The event has also been certified by HealthyVerify, a collaboration including Arizona State University and Barrow Neurological Institute to ensure significant safety precautions and measures are being carefully planned and implemented.
The day begins with Arizona Polo Club taking on Colombia. Arizona’s highest goaler Andres Camacho Castilla has played in the event every year since its inception in 2011.
It will be followed by the signature charity match of the day. EPR Polo introduces The Celebrity Cruises Match Up supporting Arizona Equine Rescue and Southwest Wildlife at 1:30 p.m. It will be the day’s highest goal polo match featuring professional polo players John Grobin and Jared Sheldon.
For the final match of the day and brand new to the event in 2020 is Morehouse College Polo Club, a private historically black men’s college in Atlanta, and the school Martin Luther King, Jr. attended. The team will be making its first appearance in Scottsdale.
The men of Morehouse will take on the Women’s All-Stars in a “Battle of the Sexes” match starting at 3:30 p.m.
Beyond offering fun and entertainment --- respite from the daily grind --- the Stella Artois Polo Classic has set up a charitable arm of their event this year.
In response to this unprecedented situation, the Scottsdale Polo Classic is offering local charities the chance to raise money utilizing its unique platform and event. Participating organizations will keep all revenue generated from ticket and table sales.
For learn more from Mr. Rose’s perspective, read below:
1. Why the name change?
This year is going to be fun and beautiful but also a little different. So we thought there was no better way to signal this than the name change. Plus, it’s a way to reward some sponsors like Stella Artois and Ketel One that have been very good to us over the years. Notably, we are letting people know this is a production of the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships, the name of the event for the past many years, and the name with the event scope we hope to return to in 2021.
2. The Stella Artois Polo Classic: Presented by Ketel One will now be a one-day event full of matches -- Are the polo teams anxious to play following COVID-19 quarantine?
To say the least players are excited. While polo as a sport began a slow return this summer few if any places have had many people there to watch and root them on. So Scottsdale will be providing a great crowd, as always. For many years we have been the most attended polo event in the country. And oddly, even with our capacity limits this year, we are still likely to be.
3. What were the chances that the Polo event would be canceled? And, when did planning changes begin occurring?
The most important thing we did was survey our customers for a course of action. We did this at the depths of the pandemic in the spring. The responses were fascinating. Some did suggest canceling but a strong majority signaled support for the creative, innovative direction we were heading. Many talked about it being their favorite event of the year and having something positive to look forward to. That was compelling. So we utilized the advantages we had of being outdoors and on a huge playing surface. We have watched everything and everybody over the past few months here and abroad to see what’s worked and what hasn’t at restaurants, sporting events, etc. to come up with a smart and safe approach for guests that’s still unique and cool.
4. Has Scottsdale fall become synonymous with the polo championships?
We hope so, and certainly in the world of polo. When we started this journey in 2011 our goal was to become the “Phoenix Open of Polo.” And I think we have. From the best players in the game to the most famous we have hosted the best of the best and created an atmosphere unlike the sport has ever seen.
The Valley has a great tradition of special events and I think we found our niche. For our event Scottsdale offers such an incredible combination of amenities. The hotels, bars and restaurants the teams love to go to. Great weather. WestWorld is a fantastic facility with lots of parking and user friendly management. And the setting is both convenient right off the Loop 101 and beautiful right in the bosom of the McDowell Mountains.
Finally, we wouldn’t be where we are today without great Scottsdale area brands stepping up to help us too. From Barrett-Jackson and the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show to Neiman Marcus, Molina Fine Jewelers, Bentley Scottsdale, Talking Stick, Scottsdale Maserati and many others that level of enthusiasm and support is critical to any event. And to the new sponsors this year like Mark/Taylor Residential, McLaren Scottsdale, Celebrity Cruises, Bud Light Seltzer and Million Dollar Mingle wow, thanks for stepping up in a very challenging year.
5. A new aspect to the Polo Classic is the charitable arm, donating ticket and table sales to local charities. How did this idea bloom? And, how much do you expect to donate through this effort?
Like most everyone else we watched local charities get decimated in the spring, and now the fall, as their major fundraising events were canceled. Nearly all of those events take place indoors but being outdoors now is a real advantage. So we have been very aggressive offering key space for free to charities so that they can in turn use that to generate revenue for their organizations.
Originally, we also intended to include a new element called “Prom” too. It was so sad to see high school students have this moment taken from them in the spring. And we were going to provide free tickets for returning seniors to enjoy a simulated “Prom” at our event. Unfortunately, the ongoing need for social distancing and plans approved by city officials and third party verifiers understandably weren’t fond of this.
6. What part of the 2020 event are you most looking forward to?
A few things. The excitement and gratitude from people planning to attend. With so few things people feel comfortable about these days — going to movies, getting on a plane — and an inability to go to sporting events our outdoor set-up is comforting for many. We’ve also added a post-event “drive-in” concert adjacent to the polo field with local legend Roger Clyne. It’s something we have always wanted to do and as a 25-year fan of Roger’s I couldn’t be happier.
I also want to share a text I just got from an industry peer too. His event business has been hit very hard. He wrote me words of encouragement saying that his company and many others were rooting for us to help show the way back. That meant a lot because if and when we are able to have a good, successful time in a responsible manner it will encourage others to move forward too.
Finally, I am very grateful that Morehouse College accepted our offer to play. We read about them earlier this year in national news as the first historically black college to have a polo team. With everything going on in the country I can’t think of a better team to be playing this year than the college Martin Luther King, Jr. attended.
7. What is your food and drink of choice at the Polo Classics?
It may surprise you that as the No. 1 selling champagne event in the state I remain a beer man. Before, during and after the event.