Limo companies looking for access, business for WEG

Joseph Busenhart, owner of Thoroughbred Limousines, said WEG is "creating a monopoly" by favoring official sponsor Gold Shield Limousines.
Joseph Busenhart, owner of Thoroughbred Limousines, said WEG is "creating a monopoly" by favoring official sponsor Gold Shield Limousines.

Some Lexington limousine companies say they're unhappy about their access to the Kentucky Horse Park for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

Only Gold Shield Limousines, the official sponsor for the Games, is allowed to bring customers to the entrance. Other limousine companies will be asked to park in spectator parking areas, where they will have to pay $20 for a parking spot each time they enter the park or $100 per spot for VIP parking that includes unlimited access to the parking lots for that day, said Amy Walker, spokeswoman for the Games.

Joseph Busenhart, owner of Thoroughbred Limousines, said the exclusive rights for Gold Shield limos are "creating a monopoly."

"We're being blocked," Busenhart said. "Nobody's going to pay for a stretch limo and then pay $40 to $60 to park it."

WEG officials are "doing everything possible to prevent other companies other than Gold Shield to bring people."

Ricky Whitaker, co-owner of Triple Crown Limousines, said he's been telling potential customers that he won't be able to drop them at the main gate and that the parking rate would increase their costs.

"We have to tell them the situation and tell them to prepare to walk" from the parking area, Whitaker said. "They don't like it real well because they feel if they're renting a limousine it should be door to door."

(Affiliated International Ministries, religious groups and churches that have come together for the Games, will be providing shuttle services from the parking lot to venues within the Horse Park.)

But Walker said the distance between spectator parking and the main gate is just about eight city blocks and is "quite an easy walking distance."

"It's comparable to what you'd walk at a UK football game if you tailgate," she said.

She added that those parking in the spectator area would have access to mobility shuttles and a few other shuttles.

But the worry about access to the front entrance might be moot, according to the limo providers, because none of the companies has many customers who have reserved cars for the Games.

The owners of Thoroughbred, Triple Crown and Gold Shield all said they've received calls about the cost of using limousine service, but most of the interest has not gone as far as reservations. (The costs range from $700 to $1,000 plus tips for 12 hours for sedans. Stretch limos cost more.)

"It's not looking good on calls for the Equestrian Games so far," said Triple Crown's Whitaker. "I don't know how people are planning to get there."

Whitaker said most of his customers are requesting transportation to events after the Games end for the day, and he'll take the business any way it comes.

Even George Doyle, owner of Gold Shield Limousines, whose company is the official car provider for the games, said sales aren't great.

"We've had a lot of inquiries for several months and a lot of e-mail correspondence, but hardly any bookings — nobody's committing," Doyle said. "We're like most other businesses around here. We anticipated a lot, and we haven't ruled it out, but we kind of thought there'd be a lot more on the books than there is."

Doyle said his company has more than 80 vehicles on reserve from other companies around the state if the requests for transportation begin pouring in. He also has had orientation sessions for drivers if he needs more.

But Doyle said his 25 years in the business tells him not to be anxious about the lack of reservations at the moment. He thinks the delay can be attributed to a difference in cultures.

"I think part of that is maybe the nature of Europeans and people from overseas who don't like to do anything until the last minute. We know what it's like from having dealt with the Ryder Cup," he said. "Two weeks before we virtually had nothing, but on the Friday the week before, they started coming.

"That was a good wake-up call and good experience for what we've anticipated for the Games."

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