Kentucky Derby scratches general admission

Churchill Downs officials expect less than 23,000 fans will be able to attend next month’s rearranged Kentucky Derby under an updated health and safety plan.

The plan eliminates general admission and standing room only areas, with total capacity limited to less than 14 percent of the 2015 attendance record of 170,513. The 146th runnings of the Derby and Oaks for fillies were postponed from May 1-2 to Sept. 4-5 due to coronavirus concerns.

Spectators were not permitted for Churchill Downs’ spring meet, but the track had stated in June that general admission would be limited to the 26-acre infield for the Derby.

Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery said the plan meets or exceeds recommended state and local guidelines.

“We’ll make adjustments all the way up to Derby Day as we find ways to improve and continue to adhere to ever-evolving best practices,” Flanery stated.

“For those guests who plan to join us for this year’s Derby, we promise you that we will make it a wonderful experience and, most importantly, we will make it as safe and comfortable as we possibly can,” Flanery said.

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A 62-page plan released Wednesday cited “current circumstances” in eliminating general admission and closing the infield.

Refunds will be issued for pre-purchased tickets. Reserved seating will be limited to 40% occupancy, with outdoor ticket holders re-seated in a comparable location for maximum distancing.

Protocols include temperature checks, face coverings and physical distancing. The release adds that safety measures will be strictly implemented and repeat offenders will be escorted from the property. Spectators will receive a bag with a disposable mask, hand sanitizer and a stylus for non-contact, self service betting.

The plan came together over the last four months, employing public health officials, including the Louisville Metro Health Department and elements from Kentucky’s Healthy at Work guidance. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear approved the initial plan in late June. He balanced factors ranging from emphasizing public safety to providing a semblance of atmosphere for America’s oldest, continuously held sporting event.

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