LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs will be allowing fans back at the racetrack for the first time this year when the Fall Meet kicks off Sunday.
"It'll be nice to see the horses break from the gate and actually hear a roar from the crowd that's on hand as the horses come down the stretch," Churchill Downs spokesperson Darren Rogers said.
Churchill Downs decided to run races without fans earlier this year due to the safety and health risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
While Churchill Downs had originally planned to have limited fans in attendance at the Kentucky Derby, it reversed course and decided to run the race without fans in the stands.
According to Rogers, Churchill Downs averaged 4,200 fans each day during last year's Fall Meet, but he expects that number to be a lot lower this year due to the pandemic.
"The demand really isn't there," said Rogers. "I think we'll see a couple thousand people a day to be able to enjoy the races."
There will be no general admission seating at Churchill Downs, but people can still purchase first-row box seats at general admission prices. Fans will need to answer some medical questions and have their temperatures taken at the gate. Once inside, they will need to wear a face covering.
Karla Elliott and her daughter, Haley Foster, will be one of the fans in attendance on Sunday, traveling all the way from central Pennsylvania to visit Churchill Downs for the first time.
"Today is my 50th birthday and this is what I got," said Elliott. "You can be a king or a queen for the day."
"I bet they're anxious for us just as we are anxious to go see it for the first time," said Foster. "And to be the first fans with all this that's going on is pretty awesome."
Churchill Downs is advising fans purchase tickets online at https://www.churchilldowns.com/tickets