Games in one year ready or not

lblackford@herald-leader.comSeptember 25, 2009 

  • Tickets

    Tickets for the 2010 Alletch FEI World Equestrian Games will go on sale Friday at noon. They will be sold by Ticketmaster, and sold through www.alltechfeigames.com and www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets will also be available for purchase at all Ticketmaster outlets. At 11 a.m. on Friday, Games officials will hold a kickoff event at the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza, emceed by NBC sportscaster Tom Hammond.

Exactly one year from Friday, the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games will begin. For spectators, Friday means they can buy tickets and start making concrete plans.

For organizers, Lexington officials, and people at the Kentucky Horse Park, Friday means ... well, if not panic, then a well-regulated focus on the hundreds of things, big and small, that have to get done before the Games.

"The sense of urgency has kicked in." said Steve Austin, director of the Legacy Center, which is working on some key projects affiliated with the Games. "There is a lot more momentum than we had six months ago."

For example, Austin's project, the Legacy Trail, a hike and bike trail connecting the Kentucky Horse Park to downtown, has received $7 million since February, part of it from stimulus dollars, and is now on schedule to be finished by next summer.

Much to the dismay of local business owners, South Limestone is being renovated as part of a $51 million Streetscape Beautification program.

Out at the Horse Park itself, construction crews are finishing up $13 million in road construction and new sidewalks. The main building projects, a new $40 million indoor arena and a $25 million outdoor stadium, are finished and in use.

Despite economic hiccups that have made fund-raising much harder than expected, Games organizers believe they're on track.

"I feel very good about our planning, and, in a lot of respects, I think we're ahead of the curve," said Jamie Link, CEO of the World Games 2010 Foundation.

However, there is still plenty to be done before the Games, which will run from Sept. 25 to Oct. 10.

THE CITY

■ The $51 million Streetscape Beautification project — to build sidewalks, bury utility lines and create more greenspace along all of downtown Lexington's major streets — is underway on Limestone between the Avenue of Champions and Vine Street and should be completed by July 1, said Mike Webb, commissioner of public works. Work on Main and Vine won't start until after Jan. 1 but should also be finished by the summer. The total project also includes surface improvements to Cheapside Park, which should be finished by April, Webb said.

■ The Newtown Pike Extension project is supposed to be finished between Main Street and Versailles Road, which will cost about $9 million.

■ The city will post about 110 signs on major corridors between downtown, the interstate and the airport. They feature the blue horse logo created by the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau. Installation will start in six months, officials said, and most should be up by September 2010.

The city has a host of other initiatives, including flower plantings for downtown businesses and a free event guide.

Temporary markings will extend the Legacy Trail all the way to the planned Isaac Murphy Park, which will honor the famed black jockey, at the intersection of Third Street and Midland.

Fund-raising is still going on for the projects, said chairman David Cozart, but he hopes to have much of the park construction done in time for the Games. The planned revitalization of Third Street is underway, spearheaded by the Lyric Theater renovation, which is scheduled to be finished by next fall.

At Blue Grass Airport, $60 million of work is steaming ahead. Spokesman Brian Ellestad said the range of projects — from a new runway for private aircraft to a new entrance and curbside improvements — are on schedule.

Questions remain about the stalled $250 million Centrepointe development, which is currently a huge, grassy area in the middle of downtown. Developer Dudley Webb said that if construction has not begun before the Games, he would make the property available for activities during the Games.

THE GAMES

Although Kentucky has kicked in at least $78 million for new infrastructure at the Horse Park, the actual operations budget — estimated to be about $76 million — is being raised through ticket sales, sponsorships and trade-show revenues. Organizers faced real setbacks with a global recession and admit that fund-raising has gone much more slowly than planned.

Still, Link said, they have raised about 70 percent of sponsorship goals.

Officials have stopped discussing the budget. But in previous months they said sponsorships would make up about $30 million, and ticket sales another $30 million. The remaining funds would come from the trade show, which is about 60 percent full, and licensing agreements.

Link said the operations plans for the Games are getting clearer every day. For example, they have a preliminary transportation layout, which will park 8,400 cars at Coldstream Research Park on Newtown Pike, and allow people to ride shuttle buses into the park.

There will be 300 temporary structures at the park, including a 30,000 square foot hospitality area. There will be 30,000 temporary seats added across the venues, including 22,500 at the stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held.

About 11,000 volunteers have already signed up, and a database is being constructed to assign jobs from taking tickets to translating, Link said.

The horse quarantine plan is in place, which means building temporary stables at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Airport. Most of the competing horses will be brought in there, then trucked to the Horse Park after a 48-hour stay.

At the park, competitors are already using the new facilities for "test events" that allow organizers to see how all the different disciplines for the Games will work.

"I think it's highly unusual to have so many of the physical facilities ready to go," said Horse Park Director John Nicholson. "That has sent a very positive message around the equestrian world about our ability to do this."

Beverly Fortune contributed to this article.

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