IMAGES | 'Thurby' gives Churchill Downs the first test for new p - WDRB 41 Louisville News

IMAGES | 'Thurby' gives Churchill Downs the first test for new parking plan

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"Thurby" or Thursday of Derby week brings locals to the track in dresses, suits and hats. "Thurby" or Thursday of Derby week brings locals to the track in dresses, suits and hats.
Shuttles drop race fans off at the new Paddock entrance on "Thurby." Shuttles drop race fans off at the new Paddock entrance on "Thurby."
A new pedestrian bridge allows people to cross over the express lane for buses and shuttles. A new pedestrian bridge allows people to cross over the express lane for buses and shuttles.
Nice weather for "Thurby" brought out some tailgaters before the races. Nice weather for "Thurby" brought out some tailgaters before the races.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Thousands of people head to Churchill Downs for "Thurby," and  many of them are locals. 

Thursday of Derby week is the first real test of the track's new parking and transportation plan.  

The crowds started filing in, when gates opened at 11 a.m. Security is set up at the new Paddock entrance between Gates 1 and 17.  At least a dozen metal detectors are manned by guards armed with hand scanners to keep the line moving. 

Big changes are in place for where race fans can park and how they get to the track. 

Patrons are being reminded that all on-site parking at Churchill Downs is reserved for pass holders.  For Thursday, people can park at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium for free and walk to the track.  

The only shuttles running on Thursday are from the Kentucky Expo Center.  Parking is free, so it might be worth parking a little further to be able to take a short bus ride directly to Gate 1.

John Schmidt was among those headed to the track for Thurby, and he said it was pretty easy to navigate the changes. 

"We waited about five minutes to get on a shuttle, and we were just here in a matter of 10 minutes probably. It couldn't have been any easier -- it really was, it was great," said Schmidt. 

But others weren't so happy about the changes. Robin Lyninger didn't know the track doesn't allow outside food to be brought to the track on  Thursday that way it does on Oaks and Derby.

"I'm upset. I've got about $100 worth of country ham and sandwiches and food to bring in for our box," she said. 

The Thurby crowd is always smaller than Oaks and Derby -and the crowd had mixed opinions on if the changes will improve the flow of people when it multiplies. 

John Perry said, "They've got it figured out, I'm sure. Usually when people do changes they've got it thought through pretty thoroughly." 

Even with the expected rain and a lot of walking, people were into the spirit of Derby week with dresses, suits and hats. 

Churchill Downs has nearly 300 shuttles and buses running this year to handle the estimated 300,000 guests for the three-day Derby weekend.

The parking plan gets the real test with the bigger crowds on Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby days. 

For Friday and Saturday, parking at PJCS costs $20, and there are no shuttles.  So wear comfortable shoes and plan to walk the 20 minutes to the track. 

Shuttles are running for Oaks and Derby from the Kentucky Expo Center. But the only people allowed to park there are those who have a pass that has been purchased with tickets. 

There is a website set up to help navigate the changes at KentuckyDerbyParking.com, and there's a video to help understand the details.  

Also, with rain in the forecast over the next few days, remember that no umbrellas are allowed at Churchill Downs. Packing a rain jacket or poncho might be worth the extra stop. 

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