He made his dream come true (PLUS 7DNÍ)

The financier Mario Hoffman got inspired by his passion for horses to create the largest equestrian centre in Central Europe.

A huge sports complex covering more than forty hectares of land was built in just over a year. We are located in Šamorín, less than thirty kilometres from the capital. The investment into the Hippo Arena exceeded one hundred million eur and the complex boasts to be the largest in Central Europe. What’s remarkable about this sports and leisure facility are the interior and exterior show jumping areas of exceptional dimensions. We were taken on a tour around the complex, which will welcome its first guests in the next few days, by the financier and the author of the project idea Mario Hoffmann.

“In this first part are buildings that were designed back in the communist times as a regional hospital. However, the original intend was changed and the buildings were later used as labourers’ home for workers building the Gabčíkovo water works. It was turned into a hotel part and we are currently building an aqua park right next to it, part of which will be a swimming stadium with a 50 m pool and two grandstands. The indoor hall will feature an 8-lane, 25 m pool, a fitness centre, physiotherapy, wellness and a thermal well for therapeutic procedures which will be used in the spa tract,” explained the businessman at the beginning and noted that this part will open in one year. The facility will also include a soccer field and an athletics stadium. The equestrian part is about to be opened.

They will be taken care of:

A former speed canoeist Mario Hoffmann has been for several years now devoted to endurance horse racing. He likes show jumping and that is why he dedicated a large part of the hippo arena to it. One of the main priorities in building the facility was horses’ safety and comfort. “,There are six hundred seventy boxes, summer and winter stables. Equestrian surfaces are world class. In this sport this is one of the most sensitive issues. The overall design was made by an expert Professor Arno Gego from Aachen, Germany,” explained Hoffmann. The facility for horses also includes a well-equipped veterinary section. To prevent health issues, there will be a solarium, where horses can be dried and also a treadmill, where they can get plenty of exercise. It can even be set for a horse to go up hill. All horse trails from stables are fitted with a special material to prevent hoof damage.” The trails are made of sand or rubber paving. It was a specific requirement of Professor Gego. This prevents injuries,” says the businessman. The main stadium, where the major races will take place, is covered with grass. It is difficult to keep it in the top shape. “In our country there is nobody who would have the expertise. This surface is made to dry within 10 minutes after a storm. It works due to a special mixture of aggregate that drains the water away.” There are three grassy and three sandy outdoor surfaces. On top of that there are two sandy indoor surfaces in halls of exceptional dimensions. Allegedly, the width and thus the turning of horses is often a problem. In this respect the hall in Šamorín, with an area of ​​more than thirty seven hundred square meters, is exceptional. It should be completed in May. The second hall is somewhat narrower. The stadium ranks among the European top.” The world's most prestigious equestrian centre is in Aachen. It spreads across eighteen thousand square meters. Our area is only about fifteen percent smaller.”

How it all started:

Wealthy Hoffmann fell for horses at the age of forty and since then they became part of his life. “My first horse was a birthday present” he revealed. A few years later his passion led him to the idea of building a representative resort. “Originally it was supposed to be a facility for the needs of our club. The municipality of Šamorín wanted to build a water park. Soon after launching the project and idea came to create a sports complex. Thus a concept was born, which also reflects the fact that there is a lack of high-quality sports facilities. The level of sports has been long declining.” When they consulted the equestrian part with Professor Gego, he came up with an idea to build something at European or even global level. Especially because the centre of this sport is in northern Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium and we are only one thousand kilometres away. A truck with a horse can cover this distance in one day,” explained the financier about the site selection. He also argues that without the right people this project would have never become a reality. “What’s important is that we managed to combine the architect’s work with a design that is both functional and representative. I’ve also experienced transformation of workers who work here. When they see the resort growing, they feel respect and joy from what they’ve built,“ he described contentedly.

Free admission:

The businessman has already a clear idea about prices and about how the investment would return. “Entry will be free, but it is expected that visitors will use services and consume in restaurants and buffets. Races tend to take care of themselves because each horse must pay for their box, straw, hay and services.“ Entry fees per horse at international races range from three to five hundred Euros per week, which covers the race costs. Parking for trucks and access to power supply, water and the like are also paid for. The only exception will be big events and races, admission to which will be charged. We have already been allocated a race at the level of world championship for young horses, which will take place this year in September. Arab riders and foundations, which are also official sponsors of the World Endurance Championship for Young Horses, are expected to come. It is estimated that they come with an escort of no less than hundred fifty people. Their participation will attract attention and promote the region and the country. „An advantage of the Arab countries is that they bring along three televisions that will broadcast a live feed to the Arab world. This also encourages sponsors to support some of the competitions and, at the same time, it is an important thing in terms of promoting Slovakia. We can bring any visitor from abroad and be proud of our complex. This definitely makes more sense than showing shopping centres a number of which is built every year, but another centre like this will most likely not be built in this region for many more years,” soberly summed Hoffmann.