10/17/2014 1:31PM

Breeders' Cup tickets at Keeneland will be limited to 28,000

Keeneland Photo
About 8,000 tickets will be sold for access to temporary chalets and tents that will be erected at various locations around the track at Keeneland for next fall's Breeders' Cup..

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Breeders’ Cup is preparing to sell 28,000 reserved tickets for next year’s two-day Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland, officials for the racetrack said Friday, though attendance on the Keeneland campus, which includes outlying buildings, is expected to be 42,000 to 45,000, according to Breeders' Cup officials.

An on-track crowd of 28,000 would be the lowest for a Breeders' Cup Saturday card in the event's history. The limited number of tickets to be sold reflects the footprint of Keeneland’s grandstand and the desire by officials to create a comfortable experience for the event’s attendees. Though record attendance at Keeneland is slightly more than 40,000, track officials readily acknowledge that crowds in excess of 30,000 are plagued by long lines for betting and concessions and create extremely uncomfortable conditions for those with even liberal conceptions of personal space.

“It’s not as comfortable an experience as we want the Breeders’ Cup to be,” said Vince Gabbert, Keeneland’s chief operating officer.

The net result is that for the first time in the Breeders’ Cup’s 30-year history, the event will be held at a track where there will be no walk-up sales, with every ticket sold well in advance of the running. While officials had already acknowledged that the Keeneland Breeders’ Cup would sell out, they had not yet discussed the number of tickets that would be available for the areas of the grandstand that would allow for a live view of the races.

Officials for the Breeders’ Cup, which has the final say on ticketing, said Friday they had not yet settled on an exact figure for reserved tickets for the Keeneland event, stressing that the organization’s current priority is preparation for the Santa Anita event in two weeks. As a result, it’s possible that the figure could change between now and when tickets go on sale, though it’s not likely that the figure will change by much.

Part of the reason why the Breeders’ Cup will be selling 28,000 tickets, rather than a larger number that reflects a level of attendance for a routine Saturday at Keeneland, is because many high-traffic areas of the grandstand will be converted into reserved seating areas, including the open-floor areas on the second, third, and fourth floors of the grandstand, and the two highly popular pub-type areas on the second-floor, the mezzanine bar and sports bar, according to Gabbert. That will limit the capacity of those areas when compared with a normal Saturday or Friday, when capacity is only limited by what the people in them will bear (and, presumably, by fire codes).

The smallest ever on-track Saturday crowd for a Breeders’ Cup was at Belmont Park in 1995, when attendance was 37,246. On the other end of the scale, record attendance for a Saturday Breeders’ Cup card is 80,452, set in 1998 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, 90 minutes from Lexington, the center of the central Kentucky breeding community. Of the next eight largest crowds for the event, seven were at Churchill.

Because of the history of large crowds in Kentucky, both Keeneland and Breeders’ Cup officials are well aware that demand for Breeders’ Cup tickets will be well in excess of 28,000. The organizations are hoping to sate some of that demand by opening up two tailgate areas on the Keeneland grounds, on what are called “the Hill” and “the Meadow,” with big-screen televisions, food trucks, and betting windows.

In addition, tickets will be sold for seating in the Keene barn, also known as the Keeneland Entertainment Center, and in the sales pavilion adjacent to the grandstand. That will bring the total number of people on the Keeneland property to approximately 45,000 each day, Gabbert said.

“We’ve got engagement of the entire campus, so we’ve got 1,100 acres we can use,” Gabbert said.

Of the 28,000 grandstand tickets, 10,000 will be sold as general admission, Gabbert said, without any access to a reserved seat or area. Tables on the north terrace and the benches on the track’s apron will be first come, first served.

Of the remaining 18,000 tickets, approximately 10,000 will be for seating in the open-air grandstand and the structure’s dining rooms and other areas. The other 8,000 tickets will be sold for access to temporary chalets and tents that will be erected at various locations around the track, including a mammoth tent on the clubhouse turn that will hold 3,000.

All of the tickets will include admission for both days of the event, scheduled for Oct. 30-31. The tickets likely will go on sale March 1, according to Breeders’ Cup officials, though some tickets will be made available on a presale basis to “loyal customers” just prior to the public sale.

Ticket prices have not been set, but officials said the prices will be comparable to those at the Breeders’ Cup this year at Santa Anita. General admission at Santa Anita for the Saturday card this year costs $25 in advance and $40 at the gate. General admission for the Friday card costs $10 in advance and $15 at the gate.