Churchill Downs Reverses Stance on No Fans for The Kentucky Derby

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Kentucky Derby

As part of the new normal in the world of sports, more and more live events are being added to the slate each month. Yet, sports fans are still relegated to watching all the added action on TV or an online streaming broadcast.
The rapid spread of the coronavirus is still viewed as a major threat. This has kept the stands empty at just about every live sporting event. In New Hampshire, NASCAR has plans in place to allow a limited number of fans into New Hampshire Speedway for a Cup Series event on Aug. 2. The capacity at that race will be capped at 35 percent.

NASCAR appears to be the exception and not the rule among the majority of sports and sporting events. The NBA and NHL hope to return to live games by the end of July but the designated venues will remain void of fans. MLB’s regular season is set to get underway on July 24 without the huge hoard of baseball fans in the stands for a traditional Opening Day game but with the possibility to bet on baseball.

Another exception to the rule could be this year’s Kentucky Derby. The biggest horse race of the year is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Race officials from the track have reversed their stance on running that race with the Kentucky Derby horses but without fans in attendance. When Churchill Downs first scrapped its plans to run the Kentucky Derby in its traditional time slot on the first Saturday in May, it also decided that fans would not be present for rescheduled ‘Run for the Roses’ later in the year.

The latest plan is to allow a reduced number of fans to attend “under strict guidelines.” The normal crowd for the most exciting two minutes in sports can exceed 150,000. It is still unknown how many people will be able to attend this year’s race. Churchill Downs has yet to release the actual plan.
The one thing that appears to be certain is a set number of fans occupying the reserved seating section. This area of the track contains close to 60,000 seats. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, the general admission seating could be reduced by as much as 60 percent. This would still leave almost 24,000 fans in the infield in addition to the horse race bettors at home.

There is no word on whether masks will be mandatory. Although, they will be highly encouraged. This raises the possibility of matching hats and masks for the female patrons in attendance.

If this event can go off as planned with a certain amount of fans involved, it could set the standard or possibly blaze the trail for spectators returning to other live sporting events. Given the party-like atmosphere at any Kentucky Derby, this could make enforcement of these set “strict guidelines” rather difficult for security personnel.

Word of bringing fans and sports betting back into the mix for certain sporting events and comes at a time when more than a few states are experiencing dramatic spikes in the spread of the virus. Common sense would dictate that nothing is set in stone right now when it comes to the return of fans to the stands in the world of sports.

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