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Churchill Downs Spent $4M This Winter To
Install Permanent Lights At The Track
With lights and night racing "now a successful and permanent fixture" at Churchill Downs, it is "just a matter of time" before the Kentucky Derby runs at night, according to John Clay of the LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER. With almost "every sport staging its most popular event before the largest possible television audience, the time has come for the Derby to take the plunge." Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said, "I think it's inevitable. ... We have trouble with sponsorship and getting ads sold and stuff. Television has dropped from ABC and NBC to major networks to ESPN, and could be going even another direction. It may be ... something we just have to deal with." He added, "Our ratings would probably quadruple." Trainer Todd Pletcher: "We need to do everything we can to promote our sport, and get new viewers and more people." But trainer Bob Baffert said, "I don't think it would be a good idea. The thing that makes the Derby is when they show it during the day, see the people, the balloons, sky. You can't catch that at night." But Clay writes that "stubborn death grip on tradition is partly responsible for the troubles racing faces these days." Horse racing has "often been too slow to adapt, too hesitant to try new things in the name of growing its audience" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 4/27). NBC Senior VP/Strategic Marketing, Promotions & Communications Mike McCarley "isn't quite sure" the Derby "would work under the lights." McCarley: "Any sort of major time shift, that's Churchill's decision to make but there's something that's very special about the Kentucky Derby and the way that it is now. You have 136 years of tradition. You can't be doing a whole lot wrong when it's as successful as it is" (AP, 4/27).
WE'LL LEAVE THE LIGHTS ON FOR YOU: In Louisville, Gregory Hall reported Churchill Downs' Twin Spires "will have four new light poles in front of them" for the May 1 Derby, part of the track's $4M plan to "install permanent lights for night racing." Four light poles with six lights each are "in front of the oldest section of the clubhouse." Hall noted Churchill "installed them after a popular night-racing experiment a year ago using temporary lights." However, track officials have said that they "have no plans to run the Derby at night." Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery said that the poles are "less intrusive than they could have been and noted that they are not attached to the historic clubhouse, which was completed for the 1895 Derby" (Louisville COURIER-TIMES, 4/24).
This Year's X Games Marks The Seventh
Consecutive Time Event Has Been Held In L.A.
ESPN yesterday formally announced a deal with AEG and the L.A. Coliseum to concentrate all events for X Games 16 among Staples Center, Nokia Theatre, L.A. Coliseum and L.A. Live. The '10 event will mark the seventh consecutive year the X Games have been held in L.A. (ESPN). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Tripp Mickle reports the "sponsor village for the event, which is scheduled for July 29 to Aug. 1, will relocate downtown, as well." The relocation means the X Games "will have more than 70,000 more tickets available this summer" than it did in '09. The completion of AEG's L.A. Live "made it possible for ESPN to drop The Home Depot Center, an AEG-owned facility, and still maintain its partnership" with the company. X Games Managing Dir Rick Alessandri said that ESPN's "marketing team is developing a plan to incorporate the ESPN Zone and new ESPN studio located at L.A. Live into the X Games broadcast" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/26 issue).
The Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon is expected to become "one of the 15 largest marathons" in the U.S. when 16,000 runners compete this Sunday, and Dick's Exec VP & CMO Jeff Hennion said that the "ultimate goal is for the event to become one of the five largest," according to Michael Sanserino of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. The number of registrants for this year's marathon and half-marathon is up 60% from last year's record, and "could have been more had registration not reached a pre-determined cap." Race Dir Patrice Matamoros said that the event "could easily grow to more than 20,000 people, with the right planning." Race Results Weekly Editor & Publisher David Monti noted that "sponsorship is crucial for the survival of an event such as the Pittsburgh Marathon, and that Dick's Sporting Goods has made many things possible for the race because it is local and it is retail, which gives the event exposure." Hennion pointed out that Dick's spends more than $1M annually to "sponsor, market, staff and assist the marathon." Race organizers will "continue to work with the city to best plan how the race can expand," and Matamoros said that it "needs to find more sponsors, not just to increase resources, but also to lessen the event's dependency on individual sponsors" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 4/25).