Churchill Downs Racetrack announced on Thursday that the Kentucky Derby will have an unspecified number of fans in attendance when it runs in September.
In normal years, the Derby draws a six-figure crowd and has a roughly $400 million local economic impact.
The decision comes amid the COVID-19 public health crisis, and there’s still uncertainty about what the situation will be like in Louisville later this summer.
The 146th running of the Kentucky Derby will allow “spectators under strict guidelines.” Kentucky Derby Week will be held Sept. 1-5, with the Oaks on Friday, Sept. 4 and the Derby on Saturday, Sept. 5.
We are excited to let you know the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks will be held September 4 and 5 with spectators present! https://t.co/jLJdQdJ18l
— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) June 25, 2020
The races were postponed earlier this year amid the public health crisis.
“We truly appreciate the leadership of the Governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear,” Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery said in a statement.
“Our team is deeply committed to holding the very best Kentucky Derby ever, and we will take all necessary steps to protect the health and safety of all who attend and participate in the Derby. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have established a comprehensive set of operating procedures, which include a multitude of precautionary measures to be followed while fans are in attendance at our facility. We are determined to keep our customers, employees, and communities as safe as we responsibly can.”
Mask me maybe?
Spectators will be “consistently and frequently encouraged” to wear a mask when out of their seats, including when placing an in-person bet.
Gamblers can also bet via a mobile app, which is big business for Churchill Downs. Kentucky doesn’t have legal sports wagering, but lawmakers have considered authorizing it the past two years without any luck. Beshear is also calling for Las Vegas-style casinos.
Neighboring Indiana, which kicked off sports wagering in September of last year, is taking gaming dollars away from the Bluegrass State.
“The impact of the Kentucky Derby extends well beyond the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs,” Flanery added. “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.
When Churchill Downs in May moved the Derby to September it said it had every intention of having spectators. It still appears dead set (no pun intended) on that plan.