Hosting all eight World Equestrian Games disciplines within a central venue is a logistical Rubik’s Cube, and TIEC’s bid to host was only accepted one year and four months ago. Will it be ready in time? Leslie Wylie takes a good look around.

Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

There’s a lot of red clay dirt being pushed around at Tryon International Equestrian Center. It rises up in jagged tiers behind the George H. Morris Arena, where CIC3* dressage and all levels of show jumping took place last week for The Fork and WEG Eventing Test Event. Giant bulldozers push it around on the venue’s periphery, piling it up or flattening it out, adding or subtracting layers of earth from burnt orange hillsides.

Construction is underway for the 2018 World Equestrian Games everywhere you look: piles of rebar, stacks of lumber, steel beams, all earmarked for new structures. There’s a concrete foundation where a hotel is meant to be built, a three-story skeleton that will house a new media center and VIP hospitality decks, and a half-functional indoor arena. When TIEC is in use for horse shows — as it will be for 75 out of the next 153 days, roughly half of the time between now and WEG — work within the venue must take place at night.

“Will it get done in time?” was the whisper on everyone’s lips during The Fork at TIEC. The absence of knowledge is always a petri dish for speculation, rumor and concern, but it’s rooted in a very legitimate question.

Hosting all eight WEG disciplines within a central venue is a logistical Rubik’s Cube — in addition to some 800 human and equine athletes, plus officials and volunteers and all the other moving parts, the venue must accommodate half a million spectators over the course of two weeks. WEG is allegedly the largest sporting event in the U.S. this year, and the fourth largest in the world behind the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, FIFA World Cup and Tour de France.

The infrastructure required boggles the mind. And objectively speaking, there is still so much to be done at TIEC, so much red dirt everywhere, and the clock is ticking. Is TIEC on track to host WEG?

“It depends on what your definition of ‘on track’ is,” a TIEC spokesperson said when we pressed for an answer.

At the end of the day, the only definition that matters is the one by which Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of Tryon Equestrian Partners, is operating. His bid to host WEG 2018 was accepted just over one year and four months ago, when only two venues were left standing after a fraught selection process: TIEC, and the Šamorín equestrian center in Slovakia. The timeline was expedited from the get-go and will remain so through the homestretch.

Whether TIEC is on track to host WEG is for Bellissimo to know and for us to find out later — the proof is in the pudding, as they say. And not unlike TIEC at the moment, pudding can be messy.

In the meantime, here’s a tour of TIEC as it stands.

First, to orient ourselves, a panoramic view of the venue from left to right: the Derby Field, to the established “Tryon Village” and George H. Morris arena, to stabling, to the indoor arena and venue entrance. The area in the foreground will host the World Equine Expo, which includes a trade…