Business News

The Kentucky Derby may have spectators within the stands, however capability is restricted to 14%

Churchill Downs released its health and safety plan for the Kentucky Derby on Tuesday. "The fastest two minutes in sport" will look very different this year.

The 62-page plan includes details on how to attend, which will be limited to 14% of Churchill Downs' total capacity, as well as changes to the way fans deploy and safely enter the stands.

"For those guests planning to join us for this year's Derby, we promise that we will make it a wonderful experience and, most importantly, we will make it as safe and comfortable as possible," said Kevin Flanery, President Churchill Downs Racetrack said in a press release.

The most obvious change will be participation. In a normal year, 150,000 fans pack the Churchill Downs grandstands to watch the most iconic race of the year. This year there will be around 23,000 visitors and the normally overcrowded infield will be closed. Churchill Downs said reserved seating is limited to a maximum of 40% occupancy. No hiking or standing tickets are available this year. To reduce contact between staff and guests, all tickets are delivered digitally.

Upon entering Churchill Downs, guests will be temperature controlled and asked to complete a medical questionnaire. You will also receive a compulsory face mask to be worn at all times (except when eating) and a personal pen that can be used on betting terminals.

Programs are included in the ticket price for all tickets, but this year guests can access a digital version of the daily program using a QR code.

Other changes fans can expect are changes to the way people bet. Last year, The Run for the Roses set a record with a stake of $ 165.5 million, up 10% from 2018. Churchill Downs continues to offer on-site betting with cashiers and PPE distributed appropriately, but strongly encourages guests to bet online, the official prepayment platform of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby.

For fans who dream of mint juleps, the drink that has become synonymous with the derby, you're in luck. A spokesman for Churchill Downs told CNBC that the popular drinks will continue to be available and will be served in a disposable or souvenir cup with a wrapped straw. The concession service is mainly limited to prepackaged food.

Churchill Downs ensures that attendees remember to socialize and wash their hands regularly with hundreds of signs throughout the venue. They also add 1,000+ hand sanitizing stations and 800 floor decals to aid social distancing.

NBC Sports said plans for coverage are still ongoing. NBC's coverage of the Belmont Stakes included socially distant channels in various locations, which they likely will do for the Derby too.

The derby is usually held on the first Saturday in May and is the first leg of the horse racing Triple Crown. Due to the pandemic, the race was postponed to September 5th, with the Belmont Stakes first being held on June 20th.

In the past, the Derby has helped give Lexington, Kentucky, a major economic boost as the main tourism generator for the Louisville metropolitan area.

"The Derby is the bread and butter of many of our hospitality businesses," Stacey Yates, vice president of tourism marketing and communications in Louisville, told CNBC.

The two-week Kentucky Derby celebrations for 2020 should bring in revenue of $ 400 million to $ 500 million, according to Yates.

"Any economic activity will be a bonus," said Yates, who estimated losses of hundreds of millions of dollars as hotels, restaurants and rentals are limited.

"The general feeling is with or without fans. We are fortunate that the derby tradition continues," she added.

The economic impact on the Louisville area on Derby Weekend was $ 356 million, according to the Louisville Tourism Board.

Churchill Downs, the company behind the derby, will also feel the effects. "We expect ticketing EBITDA to drop from $ 68 million in 2019 to $ 23 million in 2020, or 66% year-over-year," said JP Morgan gaming analyst Dan Politzer in a communication dated July 31.

"We are now forecasting a Derby EBITDA for 2020 of ~ $ 60 million, a decrease of 46% from the previous year," the statement said.

Meanwhile, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear warned Monday that the latest daily Covid-19 numbers could be "artificially low" due to testing errors by the state provider.

"We are still in a very difficult, dangerous place with a virus that is so widespread right now," Beshear said.

More than 35,000 people have tested positive in Kentucky, and 783 people have died, according to the state health statistics.

However, Churchill Downs officials said they are doing everything possible to reduce the risk and exposure of Covid-19.

"Our comprehensive plan meets or exceeds all recommended state and local guidelines, and we are optimistic that this time-honored event, belonging to our community and country, can serve as a progressive unifying force that can bring us together" Kevin Flanery, President of Churchill Downs Racetrack, in a statement.

Disclosure: NBC Sports is part of NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC.

Related Articles