Some hotels now full for WEG dates

Some hotels, including the 15-room Castle Post and the 367-room Hilton Lexington Downtown, are filled as the starting date of Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games nears.

And it appears that full-service and more modest select-service hotels are seeing a surge in guest bookings.

Some full-service hotels in the city are wishing that they had more rooms, particularly for the second week of WEG, which ends with a weekend that includes Keeneland and a University of Kentucky football home game against Auburn, said Emily Lynn, director of sales and marketing for the Hilton. The last five days of the WEG competition includes finals for the popular vaulting, driving, jumping and para-dressage events.

David Lord, director of Lexington's Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he thinks hotels in the area around Lexington will benefit immensely that weekend, including in Georgetown, Winchester, Frankfort, Northern Kentucky and Louisville.

"There's plenty of capacity in Northern Kentucky and Louisville," he said.

On peak nights from Sept. 30 until Oct. 2, "we are almost 80 percent sold," said Amy Walker, a spokeswoman for the Games. The Games has hotels listed on its own housing Web site.

The Castle Post on Versailles Road has been booked for all 16 days of the Games by Rolex, the Swiss watch company, which is a Games sponsor and the title sponsor of the Rolex Three-Day Event.

"It happens all the time that somebody will rent the place for the day, but this is the first time we've rented it for 16 days," said Charles Martin, general manager of The Castle.

The Castle's rooms cost $360 to $600 a night, with dinner and breakfast included.

The Castle's full-time chef is working on menus for lunches and dinners for Rolex, Martin said.

Other amenities there include a swimming pool, tennis court, theater and billiard rooms, shuffleboard on the roof, hot tub and exercise room.

"Whatever else they need — massages, pedicures, special wine — we will go out into the community and get it."

Martin did not know who the Rolex guests would be.

Owner Thomas Post also has a 75-acre Thoroughbred horse farm across Versailles Road from the Castle with an eight-bedroom bed-and-breakfast and a three-bedroom house.

"We're negotiating to rent those out for the full 16 days," Martin said. "We've had several requests. We're just working out the details."

Premium rates

The Hilton Lexington Downtown is sold out for the Games, mostly because Alltech has booked 310 rooms starting about a week before the Games and continuing through Oct. 10. Lynn declined to say what it would cost for that block of rooms.

"We're sold out at premium rates," Lynn said. "It's no different than during the Ryder Cup or for Derby. Other cities have similar high-demand events," she said.

Alltech booked most of the Hilton because it has a conference for chief executive officers of leading agricultural companies worldwide near the end of September each year.

"We decided to go ahead with that event this year and use the Games as an extra draw," Alltech spokeswoman Susanna Elliott said.

More than 50 CEOs are expected at the conference, Sept. 22 to 25. Alltech also has reserved a block of 50 rooms each night during WEG at the Hilton Suites of Lexington Green.

Scheduled to stay at the Hilton hotels are Alltech guests including employees and partner companies around the globe who are coming to work as volunteers in Alltech's four-acre tent at the Kentucky Horse Park, Elliott said.

Band members and entertainers coming for Alltech's Fortnight Festival also will stay in the hotel, as will riders from the Dutch federation.

'Time-starved' visitors

WEG's official housing bureau Web site shows that many Lexington-area hotels list no rooms available for the WEG dates, Sept. 25 to Oct. 10.

Walker said several select-service hotels — those with in-room amenities and some meal service — have rooms available on those peak dates, but other properties are full on one or more of those nights.

Full-service hotels offer meeting rooms and restaurants. Budget hotels offer no meal service and have few in-room amenities.

Lord said hotels are still keeping room blocks reserved with the WEG housing bureau. He said he thinks "time-starved" visitors are just now getting around to making reservations.

"We're on pace to end up where we thought we would end up as we looked at it over the last couple of years," said Larry Bell, manager of Lexington's downtown Hyatt Regency.

He described room sales as "not quite as good as we thought four years ago, but about where we expected to be in the last couple of years."

WEG officials initially projected ticket sales of about 600,000; as of last week, sales were at 315,000.