WEG organizers say more than 411,000 tickets were sold

lblackford@herald-leader.comOctober 22, 2010 

In an abrupt reversal, the organizers of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games have released ticket data they said Tuesday would remain private.

What they called a "preliminary reconciliation" showed that 411,023 tickets were sold to the 16-day event.

The statement did not show how much revenue was raised from those sales.

On Tuesday, organizers at the World Games 2010 Foundation had said they would not release ticket sales information, except to give it to the state Tourism Department for an economic impact study. Instead, they stuck with an attendance number of 507,022. That is not the same as the number of individuals who attended the games, however, as many people bought multiple tickets over several days.

On Thursday, foundation spokeswoman Amy Walker said the foundation always had planned to release the information as it became available.

Thursday's statement said the disparity between the ticket sales and attendance is because attendance numbers included volunteers, media, staff, athletes and children younger than 12, who did not require a ticket for entry to the grounds.

A special program run by Alltech brought 62,000 schoolchildren and college students to the Games.

"We're very pleased these numbers have been released," said Alltech spokeswoman Susannah Elliott, who declined to say whether Alltech had discussed releasing the information with the foundation. "We believe these numbers continue to reflect on the success of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. The numbers are very positive, particularly in a time of global economic downturn."

About 600,000 tickets were available. Organizers said initially their goal was 500,000 tickets sold, which they later changed to a goal of 500,000 in attendance. It became clear last year that the global recession had affected ticket sales, particularly as many people complained they were too expensive.

Nonetheless, several events sold out, including the freestyle dressage competition, which could seat 25,000.

The overall sales include tickets sold in 63 countries and all 50 U.S. states. Preliminary estimates show about 70 percent of sales came from outside Kentucky.

Top countries represented in sales totals include Canada, Switzerland, Australia, England, Mexico, Germany, South Africa, France, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

"The demographic of spectators attending the Games literally spanned the globe," said World Games 2010 Foundation CEO Jamie Link. "In the face of an incredibly challenging global economic climate, we are very pleased to have sold more than 411,000 tickets and to have exceeded an overall attendance of one-half million. The Commonwealth of Kentucky and the city of Lexington can be proud of the success of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, and our achievements in showcasing equestrian sport and the Kentucky Horse Park to audiences around the world."

State Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, said she didn't understand the foundation's initial decision not to release the ticket numbers, especially given the Games' success.

"I was genuinely confused and I found that decision to be one that undermined the very good news," Flood said. "This turn of events is the right move, and I'm glad to see that they made it."

The number of tickets sold puts the 2010 Games between the past two Games. The 2006 Games in Aachen, Germany, sold 570,000 tickets, and the 2002 Games in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, sold 300,000.

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