SBD/May 13, 2014/Events and Attractions

Preakness Ticket Sales Strong, While MJC Turns Ad Focus To Black-Eyed Susan Day

Successful infield concerts at Preakness have allowed for focus elsewhere

Ticket sales for Saturday's Preakness Stakes "are running ahead of last year, as the event's past success and star power of featured musical acts allow organizers to curtail advertising," according to Arthur Hirsch of the Baltimore SUN. Maryland Jockey Club President & COO Tom Chuckas yesterday said that "most seats outside the Pimlico Race Course infield are sold out, as they were last year at this time." He added that sales are "running about" 2% higher than last year. Much depends on the weather, but Chuckas "estimated that at worst, the crowd would equal last year's total of 117,203, and perhaps top the all-time mark" of 121,309 set in '12. Hirsch notes ticket sales "have remained strong for several years, as have corporate sponsorships and bookings for the corporate tents in the Preakness Village near the infield." That is all "since Chuckas decided to bar spectators from bringing their own alcohol." Since then, "new corporate sponsors have appeared or raised their investments in the event, including Under Armour, Dell, Wells Fargo, Capital One, Deloitte, Longines and Finlandia. The Leffler Agency Owner & President Bob Leffler, who manages ad buys for the Preakness, noted that infield concert acts have been so strong, "he's able to spend less cash advertising the Preakness, trading tickets that radio stations use for promotions for up to 10 times their value in ad time." Chuckas said that the infield concert's success has allowed the MJC to "shift advertising away from the Preakness." Chuckas in '12 also "decided to put more emphasis on promoting Friday's Black-Eyed Susan Day." Chuckas said that the Preakness had accounted for 80% of the advertising, "but that's down" to 35-40%, with 60-65% for Black-Eyed Susan Day, "which last year drew nearly 40,000 people" (Baltimore SUN, 5/13).

OPTIMISM ABOUND: In Baltimore, Childs Walker wrote there is "widespread optimism" surrounding the Maryland thoroughbred racing industry as Pimlico Race Course prepares to stage the 139th running of the Preakness on Saturday. There is no longer "talk of Maryland losing its signature race." Fueled by casino revenues, purses at Pimlico and Laurel Park "are at all-time highs." The state's breeding business "is in the early stages of rejuvenation, bolstered by new bonuses awarded to Maryland-bred winners at Pimlico and Laurel." The horsemen and the MJC are "operating under a 10-year agreement that guarantees at least 100 race days a year and promises renovations at the tracks." More money is expected to "flow in with the opening of casinos in downtown Baltimore and at National Harbor in Prince George's County." Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association General Counsel Alan Foreman said, "The buzz around the industry is that Maryland is the place to be." Foreman describes Chuckas as "smart, genuinely interested in the industry and honest as the day is long." Chuckas spoke of the "parties working together for the greater good." Walker noted the stakeholders agree Laurel and Pimlico "need major renovations to become more inviting destinations, but it's not clear when such projects might occur or how the Stronach Group, which now owns the tracks, would pay for improvements." Overall crowds have "continued to decline," with a 17% drop from '10-12. Leaders across the industry "worry their share of gaming revenues could be whittled away by a legislature eager to fund other programs" (Baltimore SUN, 5/11).

NEW YORK STATE OF MIND: The New York Racing Association announced that rapper LL Cool J, singer Frank Sinatra Jr., musicians from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, former MLBer Bernie Williams and a performance from the Broadway musical "Wicked" will headline a N.Y.-themed group of entertainers at the Belmont Stakes on June 7 (NYRA).
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