Last fall's Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington and this weekend's Sprint Cup race in Northern Kentucky don't have much in common. The events showcase different sports with different fan bases; the Games was an international affair, the stock car race is as American as apple pie.
Yet to succeed, both began with visionaries who faced long odds, state and local governments willing to invest and determined sponsors and other supports promoting the state as a key sports destination. And that's worth celebrating.
The Games — the first time it was held outside of Europe — had an economic impact of $201.5 million, according to a new financial study commissioned by the state. And that does not include such building projects as the stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park, which will now host the Alltech National Horse Show in November. That's a major vote of confidence in the venue and the expertise on the ground.
So is the Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 at the Kentucky Speedway, the first new track to join the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule since 2001. The race — the track's crown jewel after a decade of smaller races — could bring in 120,000 fans and $150 million, the state estimates. Tickets are sold out for the Saturday race; nearby counties report full campsites, RV parks and campgrounds.
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There are other benefits to hosting these two big-deal events within a nine-month period. The state gets positive media exposure and many fans will, no doubt, be taken with Kentucky's charms and make return visits.
Also, being a good host builds the state's confidence for tackling other big projects — maybe even big problems.
For now, we wish fans an exciting weekend of racing. Welcome to Kentucky.