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Ryder Cup overflow coming to Lexington

When the Ryder Cup golf championship comes to Louisville on Sept. 16-21, some of the action is going to spill over into Lexington.

Local hotels — especially those near I-64 between Lexington and Louisville — are already booked or filling fast. Restaurants will probably be packed as well, given that the Ryder Cup overlaps with the second week of the Keeneland September Sales and the Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, which is expected to attract 60,000 people.

"It's going to be a crazy weekend," said Niki Heichelbech, spokeswoman for the Lexington Convention and Visitors' Bureau. "We think it's going to be a great weekend for the state.e_SDRq

When the Visitors' Bureau checked with hotels about a week ago, there were some rooms available, but they were going fast, Heichelbech said. Because Bardstown has few hotel rooms to begin with and most of Louisville's are taken up by golf enthusiasts, they expect to see some out-of-towners looking for a berth in Lexington.

Even if visitors can find a room, they should expect to pay a premium — the Marriott Griffin Gate's Web site lists a $625 per night Ryder package for that weekend.

The Hyatt's prices have jumped from a price of $141.75 for a room the first weekend of September to $349 a night on Ryder weekend. The Radisson is the same price. Embassy Suites, just off the Interstate, is already sold out.

The Gratz Park Inn, a popular stop for horse people, is already sold out between Sept. 12 and Sept. 21. General manager Zedtta Wellman said most of the regular guests for the September sales make their reservations well in advance, but a few Ryder Cup visitors are mixed in, despite the almost doubling of the regular $170 a night rate. They also sell out all October weekends because of Keeneland and University of Kentucky football games.

The Ryder Cup, an 81-year-old match-up that pits U.S. and European golf teams against each other, has sold 240,000 tickets to the event at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville. Organizers think about 700,000 people will attend affiliated events throughout Louisville that week, bringing an estimated economic impact of $120 million. Louisville's 18,000 hotel rooms are between 90 and 100 percent sold out, said Jim Wood, president of the Louisville Convention and Visitors' Bureau. Lexington has about 7,000 hotel rooms.

"We definitely will see heavy restaurant traffic, a lot of entertainment traffic, and you probably will see some spillover in Lexington," he said.

Wood said that a lot of Ryder attendees come in blocks of 40 or 50 people with businesses or corporations, which means they will want group entertainment at night. Every night of the Cup, Fourth Street Live will feature live concerts.

"They will be slammed and that will be great for us," Wood said.

Just as the Lexington will benefit from the Ryder Cup and the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games are supposed to send people and business from Lexington over to Louisville, big sporting events in one area tend to benefit the whole state, said Marcheta Sparrow, secretary of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. Increased media attention also helps state tourism as a whole.

"The impact of the Ryder Cup will be felt statewide," Sparrow said. "The fact that we can host a major event will put us on the map and is a great marketing tool for future events."