When you think of Long Beach’s biggest events, chances are the first images that come to mind are fast cars, rainbow flags and marathon runners. Go ahead and add horses to the mix, because starting in September, Long Beach is the new home to the American leg of the Longines Masters Series, a three-tournament indoor show jumping competition with a maximum cash prize of 4.5 million Euros, or just over 5 million U.S. dollars.
The series kicks off in Long Beach on September 29 and runs through October 2, followed by a competition in Paris in December and the final leg of the tournament in Hong Kong next February.
(Bertram Allen competes in the Longines Masters Series, Hong Kong. Photograph by Power Sport Images)
The Longines Masters Series is billed as the “Grand Slam” of indoor show jumping, a-la the famed tennis series of that name featuring cream of the crop athletes. Competitors at the Long Beach event are jumping at the chance to win $1 million, according to Matthieu Gheysen, events director for the series’ creator, EEM, and vice president of EEM Asia. “It’s the highest prize money in the circuit,” he told the Business Journal. The event features as many as 130 riders and 250 horses, with an expected attendance of between 20,000 to 30,000 people.
In addition to the four-day show jumping competition held at the Long Beach Arena, the event features a “village” experience within the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center. The experience includes fine dining, live music and entertainment, and booths and exhibits by high-end fashion lines and automotive companies, Gheysen said.
The event is moving to Long Beach from its former home at the Los Angeles Convention Center due in part to planned renovations in L.A., Gheysen said. EEM, creator, organizer and owner of the series, signed a multi-year contract to keep the event in Long Beach, with “options for a very long-term” residency here, he noted.
“We always have the objective to develop the relationship for long term,” Gheysen said. “Our objective is really to be in Long Beach for many years to come, and to be able to establish the event in the city and the community of Long Beach.”
(Patrice Delaveau competing in the Longines Masters Series, Paris. Photograph by Laurent Vu)
“I think the arena is very much the perfect fit for the competition and we’re going to be creating a great atmosphere for the riders to compete in,” Gheysen said. “Of course, next to the convention center you have great access to the beach, the marina, to Shoreline Village, to The Pike. All the hotels are within walking distance. I think Long Beach has [a lot] to offer in that sense,” he reflected.
Part of the Longines Masters Series appeal is that it allows an up-close and personal experience and interaction with the sport, according to Gheysen. “One guy one day told me, ‘You never get the opportunity to sit next to Kobe Bryant before a Lakers’ game, but you can sit next to the Olympic champion right before or right after the [Longines] competition, up close,’” he said. “It’s an event that is very unique.”
Gheysen added that EEM plans to give local schools and organizations the opportunity to connect with the event on an educational level.
This is the second international sporting event in the past two years to designate Long Beach as its American home among the likes of some of the most recognizable cities in the world. The city is also host to the American leg of the FIA Formula E Series, an all-electric street racing competition that includes events in London, Berlin, Paris, Beijing and several other internationally renowned cities.
For more information about the Longines Masters Series, visit http://longinesmasters.com/en/.