Churchill Downs on Tuesday unveiled his health and safety plan for Derby Kentucky and the “two fastest minutes in the sport” will look very different this year.
Included in the 62-page plan are details about attendance, which will be included in 14% of Churchill Downs’ total capacity, along with changes in the way fans raid and are safely placed on stands.
“For those guests planning to join us for the Derby this year, we promise to make it a wonderful experience, and most importantly, make it as safe and comfortable as we can,” President Churchill said. Downs Racetrack Kevin Flanery said in a news release.
The most noticeable change will be participation. In a normal year, 150,000 fans pack Churchill Downs staff stand to watch the most iconic race of the year. This year, attendance will be around 23,000, and the usually crowded infield will close. Churchill Downs said reserved seating will be limited to a maximum of 40% occupancy. There will be no walking or room standing tickets available this year. To reduce contact between staff and guests, all tickets will be delivered digitally.
Upon entering Churchill Downs, guests will undergo temperature controls and be required to complete a medical questionnaire. They will also be provided with a mandatory face mask to be worn at all times (except meals), in addition to a personal style to be used at betting terminals.
Programs will be included in the ticket price for all tickets, but this year guests will be able to access a digital version of the day program through the use of a QR code.
Other changes fans can expect will include changes in the way players play. Last year, The Run for the Roses set an all-time record for treatment with $ 165.5 million bets, up 10% from 2018. While Churchill Downs will still offer on-site betting with regular TVs and PPEs, they are strongly encouraging guests to bet online through TwinSpires.com, the official betting platform for the Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby deposits.
For fans dreaming of mint mole, the drink that has become synonymous with Derby, you are in luck. A Churchill Downs spokesman told CNBC that popular drinks will still be available and they will be served in a disposable cup or souvenir with rolled straw. The concession service will be limited to mostly packaged foods.
Churchill Downs is ensuring attendees remember social distance and wash their hands regularly with hundreds of signs across the country. They are also adding more than 1,000 hand sanitary stations and 800 decades to help socially distance themselves throughout.
NBC Sports said plans to cover the broadcast are still being finalized. NBC coverage of the Belmont Stakes includes broadcasters distancing themselves from society in various locations, something they are likely to do for Derby as well.
The derby usually takes place on the first Saturday in May and is the first Triple Crown equestrian match. Due to the pandemic, the race was postponed to September 5, with the Belmont Stakes running first on June 20.
Historically, Derby has helped provide a major economic boost for Lexington, Kentucky as the number one generator of tourism for the Louisville Metro Area.
“Derby is the bread and butter for many of our businesses in the hospitality industry,” Stacey Yates, Louisville Tourism Marketing and Communications VP, told CNBC.
The two-week Kentucky Derby celebrations for 2020 were expected to bring in $ 400 million to $ 500 million in revenue, according to Yates.
“Activitydo economic activity will be a bonus,” said Jates, who estimated hundreds of millions of dollars in losses as hotels, restaurants and rents are limited.
“The general feeling is with or without the fans, we feel lucky that the Derby tradition continues,” she added.
Last year, the economic impact made in the Louisville area during the $ 356 million Derby Weekend, according to the Louisville Tourism Board.
Churchill Downs, the company behind Derby will also feel the impact. “We assume that the $ 68 million 2019 EBITDA ticket drops to $ 23 million in 2020, or a year with a 66% drop,” said JP Morgan gaming analyst Dan Politzer in a July 31 note.
“We now forecast the 2020 Derby EBITDA to be 60 60 million, down 46% year-on-year,” the note said.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear warned that the latest Covid-19 numbers could be “artificially low” due to testing errors by the state vendor.
“We are still in a very difficult, dangerous place with a virus spreading so significantly now,” Beshear said.
More than 35,000 people tested positive in Kentucky, and 783 people died, according to state health statistics.
However, Churchill Downs officials said they are doing everything possible to reduce the risk and exposure of Covid-19.
“Our broad plan meets or exceeds all recommended state and local guidelines, and we are optimistic that this time-honored event, which belongs to our community and our country, will serve as a progressive unifying force that can help us unite, “Flanery said.
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