LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky Derby season is in full swing in Louisville, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to some changes this year.
Derby 147 will have fans at Churchill Downs, but capacity will be limited to follow safety guidelines.
"If we can host a major worldwide event — albeit at a reduced capacity — we want to do it safely," Churchill Downs spokesman Daren Rogers said. "We want to do it responsibly, but we want it to be fun."
Rogers said the largest crowd for Derby thus far was in 2015 with 170,000 guests. For 2021, he's expecting between 40,000 and 45,000 guests in-person. He said capacity for reserved seats will be 40-50%, which means around 25,000 to 30,000 people. Some premier dining areas will be able to accommodate 60% capacity.
Rogers said general admission and infield tickets are limited to 25-30% capacity, which will end up being somewhere between 15,000 and 18,000 guests.
Outdoor box seats will be in a checkerboard pattern, meaning full boxes will not have other guests in a box to the right, left, front or back. Reserved seats are all-inclusive with food and drink to limit cash transactions. Infield tickets do not include food or drink, but concessions will be available. Rogers said tickets are still available.
"When you come to Churchill Downs through the admission gates, every other gate will be in operation," he said. "If you're making a bet, every other window, not every window, will be in operation."
Rogers said Churchill Downs has been operating under guidelines from the Centers for Disease and Prevention for pandemic safety measures since last March, and the facility will be cleaned thoroughly between Oaks and Derby. Signs are placed throughout Churchill Downs, reminding guests that masks are required. There are also more than 500 hand sanitizer stations available.
Rogers said there is also a Safety Compliance Team made up of hundreds of people that will monitor and enforce guidelines.
"If we have to have repeat violations or anybody that really is not complying whatsoever, those folks will be subject to ejection," he said.
He said reserved parking is offered at Churchill Downs, and parking passes can be purchased for the Kentucky Exposition Center. A shuttle system will be running.
Rogers said this Derby plan is the one Churchill Downs had hoped for last September when the race was postponed. He said the team at Churchill is ready for Derby 147.
"We've been planning for this for a long time and are really looking forward to getting folks back here," he said.
Derby Day is May 1. Oaks is on April 30.
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