Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games

Games officials will not release number of tickets sold

Lawmaker: It's ridiculous in wake of price criticism

lblackford@herald-leader.comOctober 20, 2010 

Officials of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games said Tuesday they will not release publicly any information about how many tickets were sold to the 16-day event.

Instead, spokeswoman Amy Walker released a list of the top five states and 10 foreign countries whose residents attended the Games, but it had no corresponding figures for the number of people or the tickets they bought.

"This is all the information we will be releasing," Walker wrote in an e-mail after the Herald-Leader requested ticket sales numbers.

State Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, said not releasing the information was "rather ridiculous."

"There were critics of the Games in this community talking about high ticket prices, and the very best way that can be counterpointed is to show how many tickets were sold," she said.

Stein said she thought the Games were a huge success.

It's not clear whether the ticket sales numbers will be given to the Kentucky Cabinet of Tourism, Arts and Heritage. The cabinet will use Certec, a Lexington-based research firm, to assess the economic impact of the Games. Certec is under contract with the cabinet to do its annual study of the economic impact of tourism.

The study — which will take about three months to complete — will look at visitor spending on hotels, food and retail items.

"We will do all we can to assist the Tourism Cabinet with their post-Games analysis," WEG Foundation chief executive Jamie Link said in an e-mail message Tuesday.

Games officials had projected ticket sales of 600,000 but later reduced their goal to 500,000. Now they say their goal was 500,000 attendees. Many of those attending were admitted free or bought no grounds passes or event tickets.

Overall attendance at the Games was 507,022, which included volunteers, members of the media and more than 62,000 students who came through a special Alltech program.

On Sept. 6, organizers reported ticket sales for competition events and general admission at 325,000. But officials have refused since the Games ended to say how many tickets were sold or how much money was raised through those sales.

"Once the Games opened, our 'measuring stick' for attendance was the number of people on the park each day," Link wrote Tuesday. "We are very pleased to have exceeded the one-half-million mark in attendance."

Link did not elaborate on the reasons for not releasing the ticket data.

The Games were run by the World Games 2010 Foundation, a non-profit whose financial records are not subject to Kentucky's open records law. The foundation must file an IRS Form 990 with its annual financial information. However, the information for the Games does not have to be filed until November 2011.

$107 million from state

There was significant public investment in the Games. A Herald-Leader analysis found that more than $107 million in state, local and federal money has been spent on improvements at the Kentucky Horse Park and other infrastructure projects specifically for the Games.

An additional $151 million went to projects that already had been planned — some for decades — but were expedited so they'd be finished in time for the Games.

"When there is public investment, there's no question that information should be made public," Stein said. "How are we to learn from the past if we don't know what it is? That's a critical piece of information that we will need as to whether or not it's an investment worth making."

The Kentucky Horse Park is part of the tourism cabinet.

"We know the economic impact is huge, but we really want to have tangible figures so in the future we can say 'this is what we did, this was a good investment,'" Marcheta Sparrow, secretary of the tourism cabinet, said of the study of the Games impact, which will be released to the public.

In addition, Games officials will give a report to the Fédération Equestre Internationale, the international governing body of horse sport, which owns the rights to the Games. It's not yet clear whether that report will be made public.

Lessons for 2018?

In the months before the Games, a University of Louisville economist projected the economic impact of the Games on Central Kentucky would be $167 million.

Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council member KC Crosbie said her colleagues already are talking about getting the Games back in 2018.

"I don't understand why they wouldn't want to share this information," Crosbie said of Games officials. "Why would you hide anything? As taxpayers, people want to know this kind of thing."

State Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, co-chair of the Interim Committee on Economic Development and Tourism, will discuss the Games at a meeting of the committee at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Lexington.

"I think it's something we need to know," she said of ticket sales.

In the information that was released Tuesday, Games officials said the five states with the largest number of people attending the Games were Kentucky, California, Ohio, Illinois and Florida.

The top 10 foreign countries were Canada, Switzerland, Australia, England, Mexico, Germany, South Africa, France, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

Ticket sales totaled 570,000 for the 2006 World Games in Aachen, Germany, and 300,000 for the 2002 Games in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.

"If they're not telling us, that tells me it's bad news," Urban County council member Julian Beard said of the ticket sales numbers. "Sometimes you have to grit your teeth and do what's right. Obviously, it's not right if they're withholding information."

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service