LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - With just over a month to go until the 146th Kentucky Derby, Gov. Andy Beshear said Churchill Downs’ plan to limit event capacity may need to change.
During the governor’s daily coronavirus briefing, Beshear was asked about Kentucky Derby crowds following Roger Penske’s decision to disallow fans from the 104th running of the Indy 500.
“Am I comfortable with having a crowd at the Derby?” Beshear said. “If it were today, I would want to see some changes made to the plan. If it were today I would want to see I’d want to see the crowd thinned out and I’d want to see significant enforcement.”
In June, leaders at Churchill Downs sent a 27-page reopening proposal to the governor’s office. The plan eliminated certain ticket types and reduced venue capacity in a number of ways:
• General Admission reduced up to 61% from previous years
• Outdoor Reserved Seating Areas access reduced by 57%
• Some Dining Areas access reduced up to 33%
The reopening proposal also includes considerations for concessions, gambling, and facility cleaning, but Churchill Downs reserved the right to modify the plan.
Beshear indicated Monday the plan may need to change because of COVID-19. He said there could be capacity changes including the number of people allowed in and where they are.
“What we do want to see is where we are a week from now. But do I believe that if done right there can be some fans? Yes. I do think that there can be some … and the level will really depend on where we are with the virus and then the plan, I mean it’s a huge complex.”
Beshear said Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen reached out to his office Monday to be “proactive.”
“We are both carefully watching the numbers. He assured me that he wants Churchill and the Derby to be safe. We’re going to talk early next week after we see the trends going on this week. But their commitment is to do what it takes to make it safe and we’re going to talk about that with the best data we have by early next week.”
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer also addressed Kentucky Derby crowds Monday. During his daily coronavirus update, he said the next two weeks are critical in deciding what happens at the Derby.
“Indiana, obviously, their [COVID-19] positivity rate, their incidents, their deaths are significantly more than ours here. We went home earlier, we left home earlier, so we’ve been able to manage the virus a little bit better. But these next two weeks are supercritical for decisions as it relates to Kentucky Derby,” he said.
Churchill Downs spokesperson Darren Rogers released the following statement:
“We continue to work on a detailed plan that is specific to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. Our protocols as they relate to spectators and safety are under constant thorough review and involve ongoing consultation with medical experts and public health authorities.”