FHI 5* Organizing Committee President and CEO Jeff Newman with FHI 5* course-designer Ian Stark at the Burghley Horse Trials CCI5* in England

by Katherine O. Rizzo (first published in the October 2019 Equiery)

At this year’s Maryland Horse Forum on August 8, Fair Hill International announced that new president and CEO Jeff Newman will chair the new Fair Hill 5* Organizing Committee. Newman spoke briefly at the Forum with enthusiasm as to what is in store for the Maryland horse community as Maryland gets closer and closer to becoming only the second state in the US to hold a 5* event. The 2020 Fair Hill International 5* will join the highest of the highest venues for the sport of eventing with only six other 5* events in the world.

The Sport Corp.
In order to present the world with a world class venue, the Sport and Entertainment Corporation of Maryland 501(c)3 (The Sport Corp.) was formed with its first action being to develop the Fair Hill Organizing Committee. According to the Maryland Stadium Authority, as a non-profit, The Sport Corp. can solicit and receive contributions from businesses, governmental and non-profit entities. It can also receive funds from individuals interested in the promotion of sports in Maryland.

The Fair Hill Organizing Committee is tasked with organizing, providing fiscal oversight and leading the efforts to host the future FHI 5*. The Committee is co-chaired by Mike Hankin and Mike Gill.

Newman’s role as president and CEO is to build and lead the team that will plan, manage and oversee all aspects of the activities that will take place at the FHI 5*. As can be seen at other 5* events in the world, this event at Fair Hill will be more than just a competition. It will become a destination for spectators to watch world-class riders, shop, eat and tour the surrounding areas.

Event Production
Newman brings over 20 years of event production experience. Most recently, he served as vice president of Global Partnerships at Monumental Sports & Entertainment where he worked to secure, activate and foster partnerships that included the Washington Capitals Events & Experiential Sales for iHeartMedia’s Washington DC/Baltimore market. He was also the senior vice president of Events at Lagardere Sports and Entertainment where he oversaw many high-profile events and was the Tournament Director of the Citi Open professional tennis tournament for over 17 years.

“As an event producer my biggest goal is to establish an event, create investment in that event and tell a great story through the event,” explained Newman while visiting The Equiery’s office in September. “It is all about the live event experience,” he added. “There is a powerful feeling to be part of the event in person.” Newman sees the FHI 5* as not just a yearly outing for current eventing enthusiasts, he wants the experience to become a great outing for families, corporate institutions and more. “It is about creating a five-star experience all around,” he said.

The 5* Experience
Newman explained that he has five main goals of the first FHI 5*. First is to create awareness of Fair Hill as a venue and as “THE” event in Maryland to attend each year. “Secondly, and just as important, is to create a competitor experience that is the best of the best,” Newman said.

Newman’s third goal for 2020 is to create a live experience for the public. “The public needs to be there in person for the full experience,” he added. This moves into Newman’s fourth goal: accessibility. “We want to bring the public into the venue and get them up close for a personal experience,” he stated.

Finally, to complete the FHI 5* experience he said, “we need people to create the buzz needed to make the five-star a success. We hope everyone will come out and support this first five-star in Maryland and it will then become bigger and bigger each year.”

Once established, the Maryland Stadium Authority projects the annual economic benefit of the FHI 5* to be up to $30 million with approximately 80,000 spectators over four days of sport and entertainment.