Polo, often called the ‘Sport of Kings’ was apparently created in the 6th century BC as a training game for the elite cavalrymen of Persian rulers. The sport came to Colorado Springs in 1888, 12 years after New York publisher James Gordon Bennett organized the first polo match in America. Informal matches were played on a tract of land near the Broadmoor Casino, which was eventually leased by the Cheyenne Mountain Country Club.
Polo was then (and still is!) a dangerous, expensive and demanding sport beloved of athletic young men from moneyed families. The wealthy residents of Palmer’s little city included players while the Cripple Creek gold rush attracted and created even more. “By the turn of the century,” wrote Marshall Sprague in his history of the Cheyenne Mountain Country Club, “the club found itself able to support one of the liveliest centers of tournament polo in the country.” The Denver Post went even farther, referring to the club as the “leading center for polo in the United States.”
Outdoor Polo is played on field of 360 x 160 yards, approximately the size of nine football fields. Each team has four players, who work together to advance a small hard ball with wooden polo mallets into the opposing goal. Players are mounted on fast, agile and even-tempered horses (misleadingly called polo ponies) that may require years of training. Each player has to have a string of at least four ponies, using a fresh mount in each of four “chukkas.”
Polo was an upper class spectator sport – a social occasion for the country club/equestrian set, an excuse for non-players to have fun on a summer afternoon and mingle at post match parties.
In 1920, Spencer Penrose saw polo differently. It wasn’t just a clubby pastime for the idle rich, but a perfect marketing tool for his new Broadmoor Hotel. He paid to renovate the Country Club field, and created two more. One included a grandstand, a place where Broadmoor guests and respectable townspeople could watch matches. He even built an indoor venue on the western side of the Broadmoor Lake, which was ultimately transformed into a hockey and skating arena, the Broadmoor Ice Palace.
Spec’s bet on polo paid off handsomely throughout the 1920’s, and it looked as if polo would be a permanent feature of life in the Pikes Peak Region. But then came the Depression, decimating the fortunes of the polo-playing class and essentially ending polo’s 30-year run at the foot of Pikes Peak.
The party was over…time for golf and tennis.
Generously Submitted by John Hazlehurst, Journalist & Historian