Early WEG Attendance Officially Reported Low
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
LEXINGTON, Kentucky, Sept. 26–Attendance at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games began with a total of 35,340 paying spectators for the first two days, a weekend that included the well received opening ceremony of the championships for eight horse sports held once every four years and the first time in the United States.
Figures released by the WEG organizing committee that spent an estimated $80 million (€59.4 million) on operations while another $72 million (€53.4 million) was spent rebuilding the Kentucky Horse Park showed that 23,081 spectators went through the turnstiles on Saturday and 12,259 on Sunday.
The total included so-called grounds passes costing $25 (€18.56) that provide entry to the Kentucky Horse Park but no admittance to competitions.
Saturday activities included the first day of the team reining competition and the opening ceremony that was a celebration of the horse in American history.
Sunday was the final day of the team reining competition won by the United States and the endurance event that was won by Spain.
Dressage competition begins Monday in the main stadium with two days of team competition at Grand Prix level followed by the Grand Prix Special on Wednesday and the freestyle Friday night. Organizers have reported that the freestyle is sold out.
Competition tickets for many events are about double what they were for an all-day pass at the 2006 WEG in Aachen, Germany. Hotel prices as much as four times greater than normal rates coupled with the ticket costs have drawn scathing condemnation around the world and have dampened interest at a time of tepid economic conditions.
The Aachen organizers reported 570,000 tickets sold in 2006 that brought that WEG to breakeven.
For the past four years, the Kentucky organizers have put their goal at selling 600,000 tickets. But the latest figures available place the number of tickets sold at about 325,000. The organizers said they will now report only daily attendance figures that include grounds passes and will not provide total ticket sales numbers until the end of the WEG on Oct. 10.
To achieve the goal of 600,000 tickets, a daily average of 37,500 need to be sold for 16 days.
After the first two days at a total of 35,340 that average or the next 14 days now becomes 40,333.