Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Party's over? Derby security to clamp down

By Jim Hannah, jhannah@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LOUISVILLE — The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have pulled in the reins — tight — on the 128th Kentucky Derby.

        Folks crowding into historic Churchill Downs on Saturday will find water-filled barricades surrounding the gates, a ban on coolers, and wand searches for everyone.

   Churchill Downs and Louisville authorities are trimming the list of things visitors can carry in for Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

    Items allowed:
   • Snack lunches and other food items if packaged in clear plastic bags no larger than 18 inches by 18 inches (no trash bags allowed). Only two clear plastic bags per person.
   • Mobile phones, cameras, camcorders, portable radios (no boomboxes) and portable TVs.
   • Binoculars.
   • Purses and baby bags.
   • Lawn chairs. Can be brought through Gate 3 only.
   • Blankets. Can be brought through Gates 1 and 3 only and are allowed only in the infield.
   • Tarpaulins. Brought through Gates 1 and 3 only and are allowed only in the infield.
   • Strollers carrying babies. Strollers without children are prohibited.

    Items banned:
• All knives and scissors.
   • Any glass, metal or plastic containers — including all beverages, lotions and sun screens.
   • Thermoses.
   • Coolers.
   • Grills.
   • Backpacks, luggage and duffel bags.
   • Wagons.
   • Umbrellas.

    Information: (502) 636-4400 or www.kentuckyderby.com.

    Source: Churchill Downs Inc.

        Additionally, all vehicles entering the track will be checked for bombs — and even tubes of sunscreen will be taken from race-goers.

        The security measures could cause long lines for the 150,000 expected for the world-famous race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds.

        Even more important, it may mean the end of one of of the largest and most raucous parties in America — affectionately called “The Infield” by college-age partyers from as far away as Europe.

        It has always been illegal to bring in alcohol, but those headed to the infield often carried coolers and wagons of supplies for partying — all of which is banned now.

        “Sure, you can't carry in a cooler, which has been a staple in the past, but we are following security recommendations that were strongly recommended by our security partners,” the FBI, the Secret Service and the Kentucky National Guard, said Churchill Downs spokesman John Asher.

        You also can't carry in a baby stroller without a baby. Strollers without babies in them are prohibited this year, as are the wagons many jubilant infield-goers have used to transport their party “supplies.”

        Infield partyers have been famous for their ingenious methods of sneaking alcohol and alcohol-delivery systems into the track.

        Now, with much less allowed to be carried into the grassy oval at the center of the racetrack, they can — or must — purchase coolers, ice, deli sandwiches and cigars at two Thornton's mini-marts newly set up inside the track.

        All goods will be screened and sell for regular retail prices. All mini-mart profits will be donated to charity.

        Sunscreen will be provided by a supplier that has signed up to promote a new product.

        But the mini-marts will not sell alcoholic beverages.

Some prices drop
               To accommodate fans' hunger and thirst, the Downs has increased the number of concession stands by 20 percent and lowered prices on everything, except beer.

        “It has always been illegal to carry in alcohol,” Mr. Asher said, “so we are not lowering the price on beer.” A beer in the infield costs $5.50, 25 cents more than at a Reds game.

        And the classic mint julep made with Early Times bourbon and garnished with a sprig of fresh mint will continue to be sold for people who like a harder swallow.

        The price of a bottle of water sold in the infield has gone down 75 cents to $1.50.

        A bag of ice and a Styrofoam cooler will cost $4.50 at the mini-marts.

        The cost of beer is less of a worry for those who signed up for a bus trip to the infield that departs from Keegan's Highland House Pub in Highland Heights. Alcohol is served on the nearly two-hour bus trip to the Downs.

        “My customers who have signed up are not too crazy about the restrictions,” said bar owner Floyd Ness. “But it's not discouraging them from going.”

        “I'm originally from Louisville and usually go to the infield,” said Chad Evans, 23, of Clifton. “I'll probably go this year. My decision ... will be based more on the weather than any security precautions.”

        Mr. Evans hopes the new rules are a one-time thing, and restrictions will be loosened in years to come.

All events affected
               Churchill Downs borrowed many of the new measures from the recent Daytona 500 NASCAR race in Daytona Beach, which attracted 190,000 fans.

        And the track is paying for it. Churchill Downs had requested “special security event” status from the federal government.

        Both the Super Bowl and the Olympic Winter Games at Salt Lake City got the security event designation — and the federal funding help that comes with it.

        The Kentucky Derby, which attracts more people than the Super Bowl's average crowd of 125,000, didn't make the cut. So, Churchill Downs, which is a publicly traded company; the city; the county; and the state must foot the bill.

        Churchill Downs is staying mum on what new security measures will cost.

        Mr. Asher isn't too concerned about long delays the new measures might create. Track officials have added 10 turnstiles, a 20 percent increase. The ban on most bags and coolers, officials hope, will allow attendees to flow through checkpoints quickly and not have to wait for the belongings to be searched.

        The track mailed pamphlets outlining the extraordinary precautions to all Derby ticket holders and are distributing it to Louisville-area hotels, the convention center and travel agencies. Mr. Asher said they don't want people to show up at the gate on Derby Day and be surprised.

        It's a part of American life after the attacks that left in thousands dead in New York and Washington.

        “Every major sporting event in this country has new, major security procedures in place,” said Mr. Asher. “At this point in history, it is part of life. One would be careless if they didn't take precautions. All we ask is people give us a chance to make it work.”

        Downs officials hope the new measures don't hurt attendance. The Derby drew 154,210 people last year, the second-largest crowd ever recorded at a thoroughbred race in North America. Mr. Asher said the weather has historically been the main factor people considered before going to the infield.

        Weather for Derby Day is predicted to be sunny with a high of 71 degrees and a low of 52 degrees, according to AccuWeather.

        “I surely don't think it will be the death of the infield,” Mr. Asher said. “I think people will find they can have as much fun as they always had. Some might enjoy it more.”


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