Las Vegas Polo Classic 2023

We talked with Randy Russel about the big event in Las Vegas!

Polo America, the oldest and largest marketing firm in the United States to specialize in the sport of polo, celebrates its 34th year in 2023. The brainchild of Randy Russell, Polo America began in 1989 when Russell turned his hobby into a business. But the bold move wasn’t too surprising. Marketing came naturally to Russell, whose background includes publishing and concert promotions, with shows ranging from Beatlemania to B.B. King and Beach Blanket Babylon.

In 1987, before starting Polo America, Russell played polo as a student at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center.   That year he was introduced to professional polo at the LAEC Equidome. 1987 was the heyday of arena pro polo in Burbank, California.   Players Joe Henderson, Tom Goodspeed, and Ronnie Tong were like rock stars.   Huge crowds, many of them celebrities working at nearby studios, cheered for their local team every Saturday night.   Years later, Russell never imagined that he would eventually bring back pro polo to L.A. after the Equestrian Center filed for bankruptcy, signaling the end of play for the LA Colts.

In 1991, Russell contacted several Rodeo Drive merchants who helped him revive professional polo at the Equidome. Over the next six years, athletic greats including Joe Henderson, Memo Gracida, and Mike Azzaro treated the crowds to action-packed arena polo.

In 1990, Producer and Director Garry Marshall came to the Equestrian Center to film a movie about a financier and a call-girl. One of the scenes featured a polo match. The film was “Pretty Woman,” starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. Russell and other LAEC players, including Vince Azzaro, Kendrick Hughes, Rome Azzaro, and Ed Metz, participated in the polo scenes. At the time, no one could have imagined how much “Pretty Woman” would help promote the sport of polo.

Polo charity events are a major part of Polo America. Over the last 26 years, the firm has raised millions for charities including Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, Boys and Girls Club, Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, Wounded Warrior Project, Make A Wish, American Cancer Society, and the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.

Randy and Annie Russell

When it comes to satisfying his many important clients, Russell thinks outside the box. In 2002 the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center asked about an annual polo event to raise money for the Children’s Center. Russell brainstormed a new concept for polo, one that worked well for golf — a Skins Polo Game. In the tournament, six to eight high-goal teams competed for three weeks and a chance to play in the Barbara Sinatra Skins Polo Game. During the finals, the two teams with the best win-loss record would compete for $24,000 in prize money. Each of the chukkers were worth $4,000. Winners of the first chukker would receive $4.000. In case of a tie, the money would roll over into the second chukker. A huge success, The Barbara Sinatra Skins Polo Game continued as an annual event at Eldorado for 16 years.

For Russell, marketing the sport of polo in new and different ways is a labor of love. To publicize the Susan G. Komen polo event in Dallas, Russell arranged for the ice skating rink in the Dallas Galleria to have two 30’ polo players painted into the ice for 30 days.

In regard to the Lamborghini Las Vegas Polo Classic, we offer the attendees more than a polo match. The night before the polo game we host a Meet the Polo Players cocktail party. (See attached images) It is more fun for the attendees to meet the players and know who they are cheering for. We also offer golf cart polo prior to the polo match. Our professional players drive the golf carts and the attendees sit on the passenger side with a foot mallet and play on the same arena floor as the pros. For pomp and pageantry we had a Lamborghini Runway Show around the tables at dinner.

Arena polo is growing in certain areas. For example the California Polo Club in the Los Angeles area is the third largest producer of new polo players in the country. A version of arena polo that is becoming very popular is Beach Polo. For three years Polo America did a Beach Polo event at Hotel Del Coronado. It was a phenomenal venue. Unfortunately, the costs started to skyrocket with new owners and we dropped it from our annual schedule.

At present we only have the Lamborghini Las Vegas Polo Classic arena event scheduled for 2024.