SBD/June 25, 2014/Events and Attractions

Keeneland, Del Mar Will Expand Capacity For Breeders' Cup With Temporary Seating

Keeneland Race Course, where the one-day attendance record is 40,617, is "expected to add thousands of temporary seats" to accommodate Breeders' Cup crowds in '15, "which frequently are around 50,000 for the biggest of the two days," according to a front-page piece by Gregory Hall of the Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL. Breeders' Cup Chair Bill Farish conceded that a smaller-than-normal attendance for Saturday "is possible, but that shortfall might be made up for by a larger-than-normal Friday crowd." Keeneland President & CEO Bill Thomason said, "We're going to make sure that even in the general admission areas we don't just cram people in. So there are going to be limitations that we're gonna have in certain spaces, but we've also got some unique opportunities to use some other spaces that we haven't used as well." Thomason, whose track will host the Breeders' Cup for the first time in '15, said that it is "precisely the sort of event the track's founders had in mind nearly 80 years ago when they planned the historic track in Lexington." Farish added, "A trip to Keeneland is a homecoming for the event and a celebration of the culture of racing and breeding at its highest level." Hall notes that to accommodate the event, Keeneland "will seek to move up the start of its traditional fall meet into early October" -- a time frame that is currently allotted to Churchill Downs' fall meet. The biggest scheduling issue "could be an anticipated conflict that weekend" with a Tennessee-Kentucky football game. Breeders' Cup officials hope that something "could be worked out." Keeneland also "is expected to pursue a tax break for the Breeders' Cup." Thomason said that Keeneland "may bid for another Breeders' Cup depending on how next year's event goes" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 6/25).

COME ONE, COME ALL? In Kentucky, Janet Patton in a front-page piece writes the experience at the '15 Breeders' Cup "will vary depending on how much you can spend." And it will "hinge on how lucky you are at getting tickets, which will be limited in supply." Keeneland "anticipates maybe 10,000 general admission tickets." Thomason: "It won't be more than that." Several new hospitality tents "will be trackside, including a South Lawn tent for almost 400 people next to the Clubhouse that may become the hottest ticket going." Two double-decker hospitality areas on the Clubhouse parking lot "will give an additional 5,622 people a great view of the final turn." Keeneland "will not open the infield" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 6/25). Thomason: "We can do something very unique in this market with people who really understand the horse." Thomason added that with the '15 event "taking place before daylight-saving time ends, there will be no need to install temporary lights at Keeneland" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 6/25).

GO DIEGO GO: Del Mar President & GM Joe Harper said that for the '17 Breeders' Cup, temporary seats "will be added, and luxury suites ... will be enlarged ... to accommodate a much larger crowd than what is typical" for the track outside of San Diego. Del Mar COO Josh Rubinstein said that an effort "will be made to spread out" patrons throughout complex, "with beer gardens, a Taste of San Diego and other venues in the track’s concert area and infield to 'take pressure off the grandstand.'" Harper said that an agreement with the Breeders’ Cup "was structured to safeguard the nonprofit Thoroughbred Club and the state from potential economic risks." In San Diego, Lori Weisberg notes nearly all expenses "will be borne by the Breeders’ Cup, which will also reap most of the admissions and wagering revenue" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 6/25).

FUTURE SITES? Santa Anita President and Breeders' Cup BOD member Tom Ludt said that the board "felt like the event should rotate after being held at Santa Anita three years in a row" (PASADENA STAR-NEWS, 6/25). In Kentucky, Alicia Wincze Hughes writes yesterday's confirmation of the Breeders' Cup's three-year plan "highlighted a perceived rift between the organization" and Churchill Downs. Since it began in '84, the Breeders' Cup "has never gone longer than five years without returning to the track, which has produced the largest single-day and two-day handles, and highest attendance, in the event's history." The "supposed snubbing of Churchill Downs has been viewed by some as the result of a disagreement over finances." However, Farish said there was "not a rift at all." He "did not rule out the event returning beneath the Twin Spires." Churchill Downs VP/Communications John Asher said that the track's relationship with Breeders' Cup "was 'good' and that it welcomed news of a Kentucky-based Breeders' Cup" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 6/25).
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