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Volume 24 No. 160

Events and Attractions

Ticket sales for the May 18 Preakness Stakes are "up nearly" 10% over last year, with "some fans excited" that the Kentucky Derby-winning horse Orb has a connection to Maryland, according to Wells & Barker of the Baltimore SUN. Local horse racing fans are "snapping up tickets, eager to see Orb," who is co-owned by Baltimore County resident Stuart Janney III. Some fans said that Orb "gives some Baltimore-area residents a sense of ownership." Maryland Jockey Club President & COO Tom Chuckas yesterday said that the jump in ticket sales is "likely the result of several factors, including changing the race's 'brand.'" He added that in addition to a 9.5% rise in ticket sales, all 26 tents in the corporate-sponsored village "are sold out," and the tables in the corporate village "are almost gone." Wells & Barker note this year's race "could see attendance rise for the fourth straight year and top the record" of 121,309 set in '12. Chuckas declined to say how many tickets have been sold to date, but said that 50% of all tickets are "sold from the Monday after the Kentucky Derby until the Preakness" (Baltimore SUN, 5/7).

Charlotte Motor Speedway, which last week was named one of four finalists for the X Games, plans to host the event at zMax Dragway, the facility’s 30,000-seat drag strip. CMS President & COO Marcus Smith said that placing the event at the dragway would allow spectators to have a better vantage point for competitions. Everything from street skate, to big air and motocross would be featured inside. Smith said, “The way we’ve gotten scale drawings of everything that’s part of the Games and the way our designers have laid it out makes it possible to host everything right there between the grandstands, and with the dirt track right next door, that would make the perfect location for a rally course.” The speedway is bidding against Chicago, Detroit and Austin for the event. Smith said CMS would sell tickets for the X Games if it won the right to host the event. He added, “Having the X Games in a venue like zMax Dragway puts the entire Games on a platform so much higher than they’ve ever been on before, in a much more fan-friendly way that can’t be matched by anything else. When you factor in all the folks that want to see the X Games, in a temporary set-up you can’t make an accommodation for fans to be that close with that many facilities. We’ve got restrooms and parking and camping. It will take that kind of facility to really bring the best fan experience to the X Games.”

The NCAA's Big Dance concert series is the "wild card" for organizers of the '14 Final Four in North Texas "in terms of traffic flow and other considerations," according to Jimmy Burch of the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM. The '13 Big Dance Series in Atlanta drew up to 35,000 fans per day, and North Texas Local Organizing Committee Chair Charlotte Jones Anderson said organizers expect a "similar turnout to Atlanta, if not bigger." But Burch notes the music event's location in North Texas is "yet to be determined." If the event's stages are set up in parking lots near Cowboys Stadium and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, that could "create roughly 120,000 revelers in and around the stadium for Saturday night’s semifinals games." Burch asked, "Does a gathering of 120,000 fans represent a Texas-sized basketball party for the ages? Or a potential late-night traffic snarl best avoided?" North Central Texas Council of Governments Transportation Dir Michael Morris said, "I don’t anticipate any gridlock in regard to getting people to and from the games. We've handled 40,000 in and out for a baseball game and 80,000 at Cowboys Stadium on the same day." NCAA officials will "make the final call," and could "take the music festival to another venue, including locations in Dallas." They have "scheduled site visits to North Texas later this month to finalize locations for the concert series and Bracket Town, a fan-friendly games area similar to the NFL Experience at the Super Bowl." Anderson said that a final decision for all venues is "expected by the end of May." Burch wrote "all signs "point to Bracket Town winding up" at the Dallas Convention Center (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/5).

THE HOUSE THAT JERRY BUILT: In Ft. Worth, Randy Galloway wrote Cowboys Stadium "continues to give back to its home city, and to Fort Worth and to Dallas and to the entire region." The "influx of visitors keeps on coming," and there is "not a major sporting event in the country -- or in some cases, the world -- that hasn't been here, or will be here, or doesn't plan to be here." Galloway: "In a mere four years has any local institution except for Dallas/Fort Worth Airport delivered more people from national and worldwide locations to North Texas?" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/5).

Last week's LPGA Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Va., was marked by a "world-class leaderboard, extended Sunday television coverage, average crowds and a continued sponsor search," according to David Teel of the Hampton Roads DAILY PRESS. Attendance was "more important this year as Kingsmill's owner, Xanterra, looks for a title sponsor to continue the event." The LPGA's two-year contract with Xanterra "expired after Sunday's final round but includes an option" for '14. Kingsmill VP/Golf & Club Operations Wayne Nooe yesterday said, "I thought we had good crowds. I thought Saturday was probably affected by the weather more so than any other day. ... There's no doubt that four days in a row of that (cool, breezy) weather affected how much turnout we could have had." While attendance figures were not yet finalized, Nooe estimated that the event "attracted similar crowds to last year's 62,700." He said Kingsmill's record for an LPGA tournament is "a little over 64,000," which was set in '04 as Michelle Wie was in the field for the first time. Nooe said, "Even if you're a sponsor in a skybox, you do like to see people around." He added, "We had some (prospective sponsors) that were here Friday and Saturday, and then we had some folks that were here Tuesday and Wednesday. I think they all left impressed. The process is never as fast as you'd like it to be." Nooe said Kingsmill and the LPGA contractually are scheduled to decide on '14 "by early fall." Nooe: "But if we are close to getting a partner, or if our company decides to do it ourselves, I think the date is flexible" (Hampton Roads DAILY PRESS, 5/7).