You’ve probably never heard of Wilmington, Ohio before. It’s not a major city (population 12,520) and doesn’t offer much in the way of attractions or amenities… unless you’re an avid equestrian. The World Equestrian Center, formerly Roberts Arena, has been hosting horse shows in central Ohio for decades. But improvements over the last five years and a recent re-branding have turned this venue into a premier destination for winter circuit horse showing for those in the Midwest.
Ohio isn’t going to win any awards for good (or really even decent) weather October through April… but if you can’t afford to show in Florida, WEC is by far your next-best option. The weather outside might suck, but the entire grounds is indoors — and I’m not just talking about the rings and the barns. From the moment you arrive to the time you leave to go to bed at night you literally don’t have to step foot outside.
All of the rings and barn are connected through tunnels, and the complex features everything you could ever want: wash stalls, ample spectator seating, shopping, food vendors galore, bathrooms and a gift shop are just the amenities I can think of off the top of my head. And it’s all heated. Yes, you read that right. I left my coat in the car because I was sweating!
WEC’s website boasts 100,000 square footage of climate-controlled riding space, including three show rings; one of which is the largest indoor arena in the country (615′ x 120′). The footing is that premium GGT specially-engineered stuff that feels like a cloud — absolutely lovely. All the rings have warm-up areas, and tons spectator seating (not benches, but individual chairs with backs).
My husband loves this complex simply because it’s so, incredibly spectator-friendly. Aside from ample seating, there are tons of food vendors. Next the rings, by the shopping… overlooking the arenas. And these aren’t your typical horse show food carts — we’re talking high-end shops with specialty coffee, alcoholic beverages of your choice and good food. We ate lunch watching pony hunters in the cafe. I had a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with fries and my husband had a (huge!) chicken quesadilla — both were tasty and only slightly overpriced (especially compared to the portion size).
I’ve mentioned the shopping — which is placed throughout the complex in just about any spare corner you can find. It makes it kind of homey when you’re walking back forth to the various rings to see people hanging out, and to be able to stop in and window shop. There are also a lot of high-end amenities like the day spa pictured below, and the rider’s lounge.
One of my favorite spots was the “winners circle” that they had set up. It was a perfect photo op and so, so cute! Lots of kids were showing off their super spectacular ribbons, and it reminded me so much of the State Fair photos I used to get taken… just on a classier, high-end scale.