Pandemic or Not, the Kentucky Derby Will Still Go On
Originally scheduled for May 5th, the Kentucky Derby’s stage is now set for September 5th, according to an update from Churchill Downs Racetrack. It’s no surprise that they decided to reschedule the event due to COVID-19, and with this comes a new set of rules and guidelines that need to be followed for the safety of attendees.
Churchill Downs Racetrack released a 62-page health and safety operations plan that will limit attendance to the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby to a maximum seating capacity of 40%. Also, there will be no General Admission this year. Given current circumstances, pre-purchased General Admission tickets will be refunded, and the infield will be closed.
Quick History of The Kentucky Derby
The Kentucky Derby, first staged in 1875, is the longest continually-held major sporting event in the United States. The first Kentucky Derby was a 1.5-mile race, and the traditional distance of 1.25 miles was not established until the 1896 Derby. As the sport grew in popularity, so did the event and its influence on the horse racing community. Now it’s seen as the most iconic horse racing event in the country.
The first year of the event recorded an estimated 10,000 attendees. Over the years as the event gained popularity throughout the country, attendance picked up, and the small Kentucky-born event became a national event. In 2015, the highest attendance record was set at 170,513. Obviously, this year the racetrack will need to make some serious changes to attendance and limit the number of attendees to meet social distancing guidelines and keep everyone safe.
Safety Guidelines For This Year’s Event
Temperature checks, medical questionnaires, physical distancing, and mandatory face coverings will be required upon entrance and for any movement within the 190-acre Churchill Downs Racetrack. Each guest will receive a courtesy “Healthy at the Track” bag, which will include a disposable mask, a pocket-sized hand sanitizer, and a personal stylus for non-contact self-service wagering.
“The opportunity to safely welcome back a limited number of guests to Churchill Downs in the first week of September is a privilege that our team doesn’t take for granted,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery.
Safety is clearly the top priority for this year's running for the Kentucky Derby, and rightfully so. Viral experts have cited that large gatherings of people is a primary way the virus can and will spread. Looking at the attendance record from a few years ago, similar large gatherings will not happen this year, and maybe not even next year.
Knowledge To Pass Onto Clients
Even if you aren’t a big horse racing fan, the impact of this event on the state of Kentucky cannot go unnoticed. Unlike NCAA championships and NFL Super Bowls, the Kentucky Derby's rise in global viewership (averaging 16 million), and an estimated $400 million economic impact, offer an enormous opportunity for businesses large and small in the surrounding area.
Keeping up to date with the race’s updates is important to know in case the conversation comes up with a client or while networking. The old saying goes “Knowledge is power,” and in this case it's especially true. Being able to talk with your clients about the derby and the changes for this year’s race shows them you are plugged into your state and the local market.