Hunter-jumper shows aren't the only equestrian sport ramping up right now. Polo season begins this month, and James Wrigley Miller, who bought the Sarasota Polo Club for $2.6 million in 2018 with wife Misdee, has high hopes for the club and the sport. A competitive polo player (his wife is a world champion equestrian and the great-granddaughter of chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr.), Miller has put more than $2 million in improvements in the club so far, planting better turf on the club’s seven fields and rebuilding the exercise track with a specialized, cushioned surface.
Miller says buying and running the club are a labor of love for the sport and the community. The Millers moved to Sarasota for polo and years later learned that the owner of the club, Schroeder-Manatee, was probably going to develop the site. “The scenario was if we didn’t buy it, the community would lose an amenity,” he says. “We love the community and wanted to keep coming to do the hobby we love.”
Now he’s actively recruiting members. “I didn’t start until I was 32 and I’ve been playing for 20 years now,” he says. “I was a competitive runner, did triathlons. But polo is one of the most fabulous challenges I’ve had in my life.”
The Sarasota Polo Club’s 29th season begins this month with matches every Sunday at 1 p.m. from Dec. 15 to April 12. Admission is $15; kids under 12 are free. Dogs must be on leashes. About 2,500 spectators attend, and while it’s perfectly fine to dress comfortably, many tailgaters don festive outfits and drink champagne to watch the ponies. There are also Clydesdale wagon rides, half-time entertainments, stomping the divots (a polo tradition where fans get out on the field and stomp clumps of grass and dirt back in place) and plenty of spots to eat and drink.
Sarasota Polo Club, 8201 Polo Club Lane, Lakewood Ranch, (941) 907-0000, sarasotapolo.com