Spruce Meadows organizers say record rains won't affect National

Spruce Meadows vice-president Ian Allison says brand new sod, with advanced drainage, was installed in the international ring in late 2012 and he isn't anticipating any problems from recent heavy rainfall.

Expansion, improvements undertaken last year

Legendary rider Ian Miller is seen aboard Star Power during the BMO Nations' Cup event at Spruce Meadows in Calgary in 2012. /BMO Bank of Montreal (BMO Bank of Montreal/Marketwire)

Everything is right as rain at Canada's premier show-jumping venue, despite a heavy downpour just before a big international competition.

Spruce Meadows is hosting the top riders and horses from Canada, the United States and Mexico this week at the opening event of the facility's summer show-jumping series.

The amount of precipitation recorded in the Calgary area in May was more than double the norm of 51 millimetres and June has started no differently. The skies opened up on the weekend and again on Monday.

"It's the June monsoon. It's one of those things if you stood outside most of June for the last four decades you realize that it is very wet," said Ian Allison, senior vice-president of Spruce Meadows.

"As I say to the staff here, you can't have a grassland in the world — whether it's in Africa or the steppes of Asia — that doesn't have a rainy season. We're on a grassland here and this is our rainy season."

Allison said new sod, with advanced drainage, was installed in the international ring last fall and he isn't anticipating any problems. He said a Kentucky-fescue blend was put in the ring, the size of five football fields, at a cost of about $250,000.

"Technology has changed. We've put a tremendous amount of time and learning into understanding the drainage, the soil composition and a subsurface draining system here," Allison said Monday as he pulled back a cover in the international arena to show a steady river of water draining away from the ring.

"It shows our weeping tile works. The water's coming off the ring — literally thousands of litres at a time — through this system. We've put sand on what is typically a clay base that doesn't drain so well."

In the past, crews had to use vacuums to remove water from the grass when drainage was a problem.

Spruce Meadows, which held its first equestrian tournament in 1976, is recognized as one of the world's top show-jumping venues. Located deep in the southwest corner of Calgary's city limits, the sprawling 146-hectare site, with a striking view of the Rocky Mountains to the west, has a stable capacity of 1,000 horses.

Daily attendance as high as 70,000 people is not uncommon.