Op-Ed

World Games for Kentuckians, too

By Sam Barnes

Kentucky will have the ability to shine like never before this fall. The 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games will be the largest sporting event held in the United States this year. Already, more than a quarter of a million tickets have been sold. Hundreds of thousands of guests from across the U.S. and the world will travel to Kentucky Horse Park for the festivities, and millions more will witness the event on television.

The anticipated economic impact of the World Equestrian Games is $167 million. That is a significant amount and will help support hundreds of local businesses.

Most important, the World Equestrian Games provide an opportunity for us to show the world what a wonderful place Kentucky is to live, work and play. The commonwealth is a great environment to do business.

In Central Kentucky, we have a highly educated and skilled work force, a diverse economy and a business-friendly community. There is a commitment to education, the arts and helping those in need realize a better tomorrow. And there are few places with more natural beauty than right here in the Bluegrass. Guests will be amazed with the allure of Kentucky Horse Park.

Many visitors will be industry leaders in their respective fields. We want them to know why they should either move to or expand their business in Kentucky. For those who have never traveled here, we want them to come back frequently and spread the word about all Kentucky has to offer.

State travel and tourism officials, the local World Equestrian Games team and title sponsor Alltech have taken a leadership role the past few years in traveling across the globe and touting the games and Kentucky. This fall, all Kentucky residents can be ambassadors for the commonwealth.

I would encourage everyone to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be held in our own backyard. This is the first time the World Equestrian Games have ever been held in the United States — and we can proudly display our Bluegrass hospitality.

Amid the excitement, there are two primary myths or misconceptions surrounding the upcoming games that potentially stand in the way of our success:

Myth 1: "The games are only for equine enthusiasts"

There will be something for everyone during the 16-day event. More than 100,000 square feet of pavilion space at the Horse Park will host exhibits, live music, food and activities for the entire family. There will be four large designated areas providing a World's Fair-like atmosphere.

The Kentucky Experience is just one of the "villages" that will be on site. The Kentucky Experience will be fun and educational for guests and a source of pride for native Kentuckians. The Experience will have exhibits including a Corvette Museum display, concerts from local musicians, arts and crafts from throughout the state and Kentucky Proud food products.

Anyone with a competition or ground pass ticket will have access to the area. You can spend an entire day exploring the Horse Park.

Myth 2: "I cannot afford tickets to the games."

Competition tickets to witness the equine events range in price, and many start as low as $25 per ticket.

If you aren't interested in a competition ticket, a grounds pass is $25 per person (and children under 12 are free). Fifth Third Bank is selling Flex Grounds Pass tickets. They are $30 per person and allow you access to the grounds and the aforementioned activities on a day of your choice (save for three select days). So you can purchase tickets now and decide later which day you'd like to attend.

A family of four (including two children) could spend a day at the games for about $50 in tickets. There are few major sporting events that offer this type of value.

And if you purchase a grounds pass ticket and decide you'd like to see one of the equine events after you arrive, you can use your grounds pass as a credit and purchase a competition ticket, only paying the difference between the two.

The World Equestrian Games will leave a legacy and have an incredible impact upon the commonwealth. Let's show the world our unbridled spirit this fall.

Sam Barnes is president & CEO of Fifth Third Bank Central Kentucky, the "Official Community Bank" of the World Equestrian Games and the presenting sponsor of the Kentucky Experience.

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