An overwhelming majority of likely voters in Fayette County thinks the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games were good for Lexington, according to a new Kentucky Poll.
The poll showed 69 percent agreed that "the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games and related events were a success for Lexington." Fourteen percent disagreed, and 17 percent weren't sure.
The telephone survey of 500 registered voters in Fayette County was conducted Oct. 15 to 19 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C., on behalf of the Lexington Herald-Leader and WKYT-TV. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
A majority of every sub-group polled except independents agreed with the statement, although women and Democrats were more supportive. Sixty percent of men and 76 percent of women agreed the Games were a success, while 77 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Republicans agreed.
Only 46 percent of independents agreed. One-third of independents weren't sure what to make of the Games.
Although ticket sales had fallen below expectations, the Games received rave reviews for the top-level competition and other activities at the Kentucky Horse Park. Accolades also were given to LexTran, which provided an efficient shuttle service to the Horse Park, and Spotlight Lexington, a downtown festival of live entertainment held throughout the 16-day Games.
Leading up to the event, downtown Lexington got a major face lift with sidewalk and street improvements.
Marian Keesy, a self-professed horse lover, attended the Games twice.
"People were so complimentary about Lexington; there were no traffic problems, and I like the improvements downtown," she said. "I thought it was very well done."
The poll results don't surprise Horse Park Director John Nicholson.
"It's testimony to the success of the Games that that many of our citizens are in agreement, which doesn't happen very much these days," he said. "Of all the wonderful legacies, among the most important are the pride, energy and enthusiasm demonstrated by our community."
Nicholson spoke of those legacies before a group of lawmakers in Lexington on Thursday, including the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Tourism. He said that due to the $80 million in public investment at the Horse Park — which built a new indoor arena and massive outdoor stadium — 19 events had been added to the yearly schedule at the park.
"Every cent is now paying dividends in future events and the economic development that will follow," Nicholson said.
Several lawmakers, many of whom attended the Games, added their praise.
"I think we were able to showcase Lexington and Kentucky in the very best light they've ever been showcased," said state Rep. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington.
It's not clear whether the Games' success will have any effect on the hotly contested mayoral race between Mayor Jim Newberry and Vice Mayor Jim Gray.
"It doesn't play the same way a pocketbook issue does," said Don Dugi, a political science professor at Transylvania University. "It was a fairly limited event that will fade to memory fairly quickly."
Dugi said Newberry probably should take some credit for the downtown improvements and the success of Spotlight Lexington, "but I don't know how much people will believe it."
Said Gov. Steve Beshear: "The Games were a triumph for the Kentucky Horse Park, for Alltech, and indeed for our entire state. I am pleased that so many Kentuckians feel the same way."