GREENFIELD — One of the things that makes the Saratoga area’s equine culture stand out is its long commitment to polo, but there will be no players mounted on galloping horses swinging their mallets at a small ball this summer. And it has nothing to do with coronavirus.
The 2020 Saratoga Springs summer polo season has been cancelled, as the current owners of the historic polo field just outside the city limits in Greenfield continue to fight to keep the property or sell it to a sympathetic buyer, despite a pending bank foreclosure.
Mike Bucci and Jim Rossi, who own the Bloomfield Road property where the Whitney polo field is located, announced in an email to friends and supporters Thursday that there will be no Saratoga Polo Association season in 2020, for the first time in decades.
“It is with great sadness that we have to confront the fact that our future is uncertain and we are not in a position to present the 2020 polo season,” they said. “We are truly humbled and grateful to all who have shared this journey with us and want to express our deepest appreciation to all who have shown us great kindness and generosity.”
Over the decades, Saratoga’s matches have attracted some of the world’s top polo players, though public attendance has declined in recent years.
With a bank foreclosure approved by a state Supreme Court judge over millions of dollars in mortgage debt, Bucci and Rossi have been trying to auction the property to another buyer before the foreclosure is carried out. The current foreclosure is by Pioneer Bank for $3.2 million.
Bucci and Rossi were seeking more than $4 million in an online auction earlier this month, which also sought the buyer’s commitment to preserve the sport, which is by some accounts is among the oldest team sports in the world, and has a public image long associated with pastimes of the “idle rich,” though anyone could attend the twilight competitions.
“We have no further comments at this time as we are reviewing our options but will communicate more with you should our situation change,” they wrote.
Rossi and Bucci have owned the club since 2004. Recognizing the property needed other sources of revenue, they received approval from the town of Greenfield in 2007 to develop part of 43-acre site with a luxury housing and a conference center, but that $80 million project has never gone forward. It remains approved for the property, even if new owners come in.
In September, after the 2019 polo season had concluded, Rossi said it had been a good season and he was already making plans for the 2020 season.
The site on Bloomfield Road just west of Saratoga Springs has been a polo field since 1898, with a gap of a few decades in the mid-1900s. Rossi and Bucci’s love for the sport and the history of the site led them to plan their development around the polo field, which apparently was a sticking point for investors, they said.
“We saw the polo field as being the core of the property,” Rossi said in September. “We challenged ourselves to create a viable business model that had some modest development on site and still preserved the polo field.”