LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Plans for Kentucky Derby 146 will include a limited number of spectators for the pandemic-delayed race.
Churchill Downs announced that its plans for both the Derby on Saturday, Sept. 5 and the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, Sept. 4, have been approved by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's office.
"This is a different experience. This is a different year," said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery at a news conference. He declined to say how many spectators would be allowed at the track for the event, which usually draws about 150,000 on the first Saturday in May.
Flanery said, "This is a big facility. How do we use it in a responsible way?" Among plans being considered are cutting general admission tickets by 60 percent and limiting those to only the infield. And anyone in the infield would not be able to walk the grandstands.
Churchill Downs is in the process of contacting ticketholders to determine who still plans to attend and how they can accommodate guests.
The track plans to limit "touch points" by having limited places to enter the track. Flanery said they trust that racing fans will work with Churchill Downs and do the responsible things.
Plans for social distancing are still being developed with just more than 70 days to go. But Flanery said Churchill Downs is a unique venue with 26 acres in the infield and 1.6 million square feet under the roof. He said there will be smaller crowds, lines for concessions, no chef's tables and wagering will be encouraged online.
Flanery said the track is investing in WiFi to allow more people to place bets on personal devices and smartphones through their Twin Spires program.
"The impact of the Kentucky Derby extends well beyond the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs," Flanery said in a statement. "It is an incredibly important time for the City of Louisville and the Commonwealth of Kentucky both culturally, economically and with respect to our time-honored traditions. Both employees and guests are asked to take an active role in following all guidelines. We must all do our part to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience."
Churchill Downs’ plan was developed following guidelines from the Louisville Metro Health Department and Kentucky’s Healthy at Work program. Among the steps being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
- Reduced capacity to limit overall crowd density, including general admission, outdoor reserved seating, premium dining and suites.
- Information on ticketing and seating areas will be released in the coming days and also will be sent directly to ticket holders.
- General admission tickets will be limited to a specified number and only grant access to the infield.
- No general admission will be allowed in the “front side” or paddock areas of the facility.
- Access throughout the facility will be severely limited.
- Credentials for employees, media and guests will be reduced.
- Barn area access will be restricted to essential personnel.
- Guests and parties in the barn area for morning workouts and during race days will be eliminated.
- Changes in venue operations to limit person-to-person touchpoints.
- Team member protocols established to protect employees and guests.
- A revised Fan Code of Conduct that establishes expectations for guests coming to the Derby.
Masks will be encouraged at all times except when guests are seated. This includes when they are on shuttles, walking through the venue, going to the restroom, placing wagers and purchasing food. Guest will also be encouraged to socially distance and frequently wash and sanitize their hands.
Updates to the Churchill Downs plan will be posted online at KentuckyDerby.com/Updates.
Tickets purchased for the originally scheduled Kentucky Derby Week dates are automatically valid for the new race dates. If you have tickets and can't attend the Derby or Oaks, visit KentuckyDerby.com/TicketStatus for more information. If you purchased tickets through other vendors, TicketMaster or Derby Experiences, contact those sites directly.
Kentucky Derby Week will be held Sept. 1-5 with the Oaks on Friday, Sept. 4 and the Derby on Saturday, Sept. 5.
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