On June 19, the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club welcomed members to a Reopening Mixer celebrating its newly remodeled Clubhouse, which is nestled among the eight championship tennis courts, swimming pool, and Fitness Center on a scenic hill atop the polo fields. Members enjoyed cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, Big Joes Tacos’s creations, and the camaraderie of this friendly and casual group.
During a ribbon-cutting ceremony presided over by Trustee President Chuck Lande and Board VP Rhys Williams, General Manager David Sigman lauded member Bruce Giffin for his vision years ago to create the Tennis Capital Improvement Fund that paid for the $500,000 project and Director of Operations Shayna Cogan for her vision and execution of the remodel.
When COVID shut down the club in March 2020, management saw an opportunity for the remodel. According to Cogan, they wanted to create a casual, comfortable space for members to come with their families — a place that members would view as an extension of their home. The open design allows the Clubhouse to be connected to the outside, where most of the club’s activities occur. A new Clubhouse market provides refreshments.
The club was allowed to reopen tennis, swimming, and fitness in mid-April 2020 with a new reservation system and strict protocols. With tennis being a sport where one can socially distance, COVID caused an increase in usage. Members made greater use of the pool and Fitness Center, as well. Conveniently, the Fitness Center is a tent with panels opening to the outside, allowing members to have ventilation for COVID requirements and to enjoy the views while working out.
General Manager David Sigman emphasized the importance of the health and wellness of its members during COVID, which meant adherence to strict protocols while maintaining exercise opportunities, including allowing members to walk on the three polo fields, which are each the size of nine football fields.
The polo season opened in mid-May 2020, just two weeks later than usual, and ran the full season to October, but under strict protocols and very limited attendance. The Polo Clubhouse became a COVID testing center, with teams and club staff tested weekly — more than 1,000 tests were administered — and there were no reported cases all season. Spectators were limited to those associated with the teams, club staff, and club boardmembers.
Polo Manager Melanja Jones related how “people rallied around the season, not only for the sake of the teams and players, but also for the grooms, farriers, feed stores, veterinarians, grounds crew, and hardworking support staff who are the pillars of our polo community.” As in prior years, the United States Polo Association (USPA) Global Polo Network live streamed the top games to an international audience, with greatly increased viewership.
The 2021 season kicked off in May, and there will be matches every weekend through early October, except this weekend and Labor Day weekend. With COVID restrictions lifted, the public again is encouraged to attend.
Sunday is the big event each week, but according to Sigman, Friday Happy Hours have been insanely popular this year. These matches, typically semi-finals, start at 4 p.m. and are free and open to the public (though only members can reserve Terrace spots).
The Polo Academy had a brief shutdown in March 2020, but otherwise has been operating and has had record participation.
In May, the Fieldside Grill opened, serving coastal California cuisine on a terrace overlooking the main polo field. The new restaurant, unlike the old Polo Grill, isn’t just for polo matches — it is open Wednesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. The Polo Boutique is open on Sunday, and the Tennis Shop is open seven days a week.
The club has about 650 members and is accepting new members of all types — tennis, swim and fitness, polo, and social. Member Sandy Robertson related how a friend had encouraged her to join the club, referring to the members as the nicest group of people you will find anywhere. Robertson joined and completely agrees with her friend’s assessment. For more info, go to sbpolo.com.