The Kentucky Derby will take place on September 5, hosting supposedly only 40% of the regular venue capacity. Yet, according to Gov. Andy Beshear, the occupancy limit may fall to 15%.
The Derby to Return, Occupancy Limited
With the Kentucky Derby returning, Churchill Downs officials have released 63-page guideline on how the event is going to take place on September 5. The first thing that strikes is the occupancy rate limited to just 40% of the venue’s capacity, or 23,000 guests.
There will be no general admission and the infield will remain closed. The company specified that any general admission tickets will be refunded and attendee will no longer have the option to opt for standing-room-only tickets.
With just 23,000 guests, those who remember the Kentucky Derby in 2015, which attracted some 170,513 people, would definitely feel a bit disappointed. Yet, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced most sports and racing organizations to rethink their live attendance policies.
Earlier in July, NASCAR reunited 30,000 people on the raceway in Bristol, Tennessee, which is the highest live event, held in the US so far since a general lockdown was issued back in February. Commenting on the recent decisions, Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery explained that the racetrack had decided to go with the best medical practices and safety protocols.
Andy Beshear Cautions Occupancy to Be Under 15%
Flanery noted that further adjustments are also expected further down the line, and all the way to Derby Day, but he didn’t specify what exactly. Gov. Andy Beshear, though, explained that he expected numbers to fall even further:
“I believe that their numbers and capacity will fall even further before Derby Day, that they will be under 15% of their facility.”
He reminded that the Louisville City FC soccer team, a USL franchise, was playing with 4,800 fans in attendance. To prepare for the upcoming event, Churchill Downs confirmed that it would run temperature checks and make sure that physical distancing protocols are put in place and kept.
Churchill Downs has reassured the public that the company has worked very closely with both regulators and health authorities and has received exceptional support from both. The news that Churchill Downs will go ahead with one of the most significant sports events for the year was well received.
Louisville Tourism CEO Karen Williams was pleased, saying that “In these disruptive times, it is a bonus to learn that Churchill will be able to safely host a reduced capacity of fans.” Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen added that the company felt confident that it would run the event and that people in attendance would enjoy it.
Previously, the Kentucky Derby was supposed to be held in May, but the event had to be pushed back to September 5 due to uncertainties about the Covid-19 pandemic. To help fans not miss the Derby too much, Churchill Downs teamed up with Inspired Entertainment to bring a virtual Kentucky Derby, which proved quite the hit!