With only few days remaining until the Derby, Louisville is preparing for an influx of visitors for the big race. Though some pre-Derby events have been washed out with recent events, people are flocking into the city. They come for the race but receive a few days of good old Southern charm and modern marketing.
"What we've seen is our earliest sellout for the hotels in recent memory for the Derby," said Jim Wood, President of the Greater Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau, "so that's really encouraging for us. The demand is very, very strong this year."
Many events preceding the Derby are free or reasonably priced for the budget minded, but many who attend the Derby are prepared to leave a lot to cash (or melted plastic!) in Louisville. The city has gone all out to make visitors feel welcome. When visitors deplane at Louisville Regional Airport, they see a giant horseshoe trimmed with roses and banner of “Welcome, Race Fans,” but that is just the beginning. Louisville uses the Derby as it reason to do spring cleaning. Brightside, a nonprofit specializing in beautifying the community, attracted 500 volunteer to pre-Derby downtown cleanup on April 28. The volunteers picked up litter from Main to Broadway and First to Ninth streets and plants flower at Belevedere and Jefferson Square. The goal is for visitors to see Louisville as a clean city they might want to visit again or relocate their family or business here.
Area hotels are literally rolling out the red carpet for guests on Thursday after undertaking a massive effort to clean and paint the premises. After working closely with guests to anticipate their needs and preferences for beverage, transportation, security, dinner reservation, etc. for the weekend, many hotels are geared up to offer start treatment all weekend. They will be offered bourbon snow cones at the 21cMuseum hotel, Wild Turkey Liqueur at the Brown, a reception with roses in the room at the Galt, and similar star treatment elsewhere. Pampering is not cheap. Rates at the Sheraton, for example, which include transportation to and from the airport and the Derby plus breakfast on Friday or Saturday and brunch on Sunday, start at $2,500 per night for the package or $1,300 for a room.
According to Thomas McAdam of the Louisville Examiner, seeing the Derby itself at Churchill Downs is pricey too, not even counting the amount left at the betting window. -He quotes some prices:
- Grandstand, Section 128= $655.00
- Turf Club Pass= $1067.00
- Secretariat Lounge Pass= $1072.00
- Seat at table in Matt Winn Room= $1746.00
- Seat in Turf Club Section A= $5335.00
- Barnstable/Brown Party= $1310.00
- Seat at table on Millionaires Row= $3342.00
- Seat at table in Gold Room= $6790.00
- Seat at Clubhouse Box, near finish line= $11592.00
- Parking Pass= $146.00
- General Admission= $56.00
- Infield= $56.00
A lot of revenue rides of the Derby in Louisville. With a 50% chance for heavy rains and thunderstorms for Saturday, the real action may be at the social events conducted with the Derby, whether at Churchill Downs, a hotel, or a private party. In the past, the Derby has been held in the rain, but serious storms might call for a change in plans for the race but not for the fun.