Thursday, February 05, 2009

2010 WEG: UK teams up with WEG to offer support and services

February 05, 2009

by Margaret Buranen

Lexington, KY - The foundation behind the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games recently announced its newest sponsor: the University of Kentucky.

The sponsorship was the first one announced since Jamie Link became CEO of WEG 2010 Foundation. Link, who grew up in Cynthiana, previously worked for both the Kentucky Horse Park and the Kentucky Department of Tourism.

"What a great day for WEG and UK," Link said, while signing the sponsorship agreement. Asked later about the first sponsorship signed during his watch, Link said, "It's very important to me, being a UK alumnus, and a great privilege."

Signing for UK was its president, Dr. Lee Todd, who said, "We feel we'll benefit as well as WEG because of the exposure and activities our students, faculty and staff will get to enjoy."

Todd characterized UK's opportunities for participation at the WEG as "internships and practical experience on a world stage." He explained that students, faculty, and staff from various departments and units would be involved, including arts and sciences, fine arts, design, and career services.

Students and faculty members from the French, Spanish and other foreign language departments will serve as translators for the many international visitors and competitors. The Office of Economic Development will be working on parking issues.

UK's College of Agriculture, appointed as the "Official Equine Initiative" of the 2010 Games, will be very involved with the event. Some of its students are already working in related internships. Agriculture faculty members have also begun working on WEG matters, including turf and water management at the Horse Park. In addition, about 12 miles of the endurance course (one of WEG's eight events) will be run on Maine Chance Farm, UK's equine research facility on Newtown Pike.

The department within the College of Agriculture most closely related to WEG is the Equine Initiative. Dr. Nancy Cox, associate dean for Research in the College of Agriculture, said that "the 2010 World Equestrian Games place a special focus on Kentucky as the Horse Capital of the World."

Cox said that UK's Equine Initiative and the selection of the Kentucky Horse Park as the site for the 2010 WEG were announced at roughly the same time. "Our goal is to provide an array of progress in teaching, in research, in service that is appropriate to the Equine Initiative. [WEG] couldn't be better for us."

Part of the Equine Initiative is the new program leading to a bachelor's degree in equine science and management. About 120 students are now enrolled, with half in their second year. Cox added that "students representing UK will be recruiting [future students] at the Games."

As part of the sponsorship agreement, UK HealthCare will be designated at the "Official Medical Provider" of the 2010 Games. UK will donate more than 7,000 hours in medical personnel time plus equipment to care for spectators, volunteers, staff members and competitors.

Dr. Michael Karpf, executive vice president for UK Healthcare, said, "We're very excited to do our part to make this partnership be a success." Noting that the WEG, plus Keeneland and UK football games, will mean as many as 120,000 to 130,000 extra people in Lexington on some of the event's 16 days, Karpf asserted that, "We'll be ready and will have [emergency medical] facilities on site at the Games. We hope we're not needed, but we'll be there."

A significant factor in UK's ability to provide superior emergency medical care will be its new hospital, which will be open when WEG begins. The new hospital's emergency room will be four times the size of the current hospital building's ER.

"We are the cornerstone for trauma [care] in this region," Karpf said. He predicted that the new hospital's ER will be "the finest ER in the country when it opens up."

The newest sponsorship grew out of UK's past involvement with the Horse Park. Dr. Patricia Howard of UK's School of Nursing and Thomas Harris, vice president for external affairs, have helped the Horse Park with planning medical care during past Rolex events.

Harris explained that as people in various departments at the university were offering ideas on how they could be involved with WEG, "people at the Kentucky Horse Park were asking us to formalize this process and help the Games."

He described the partnership as "such a fine opportunity to engage the community. We feel a responsibility to be involved, as the flagship university of the state."

Reflecting on the value of the sponsorship to UK, its president said that "this event gives us a world stage to expose Kentucky to future students and future faculty."

Todd noted how important horses are to the Kentucky's undiversified economy. He added that UK's WEG sponsorship "gives us a chance to show our commitment to the equine industry and an opportunity to show the world that Kentucky is the equine leader."

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