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How will a Breeders' Cup without fans impact Lexington’s economy?

Published: Nov. 6, 2020 at 4:37 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Even though thousands of fans won’t be coming to Lexington for the Breeders' Cup, it’s still having an impact on local businesses.

But not everyone is seeing an increase.

It was a little more than two years ago when Keeneland announced they would be hosting the 2020 Breeders' Cup. It was expected to be a big boost for Lexington’s hospitality industry.

We now know those thousands of fans weren’t able to attend, but, for hotels, it wasn’t all bad news.

Pam Avery, the president of the Bluegrass Hospitality Association, told us things have been picking up, but it’s still pretty rough for her industry.

“Is it back to anywhere close to normal? No. The meeting business is still pretty nonexistent. The corporate traveler kind of still a little bit nonexistent,” Avery said.

Avery is also the manager of the Embassy Suites at Lexington Green. She said even though racing fans aren’t flocking to Lexington, there are still a few thousand people in town for those races. And they’ve been keeping her hotel and the restaurants nearby pretty busy.

“Over 50% of my hotel is connected to the Breeders' Cup,” Avery said. “And they have been with us since the end of October.”

But that doesn’t mean extra business for everyone.

The owner of Sawyer’s Downtown told us they had big plans for this weekend.

“We thought ‘add-on 60,000 fans to Keeneland and extend my Keeneland season.’ I thought it was gonna be a huge boon,” Jim Sawyer said.

That didn’t happen. He said they have seen a lot of the owners and trainers, but most of them aren’t eating at fast-casual places like his, something fans were happy to do.

“You know, these people are in from all across the country. This is a major event for them. This is the top of the crown for horse racing,” Sawyer said. “So, these are some people that can afford to eat at the premium places in town. And we have several.”

The Breeders' Cup is coming back to Keeneland in 2022. The hope is, by then, so will all of those fans.

Marriott City Center officials told us their occupancy is at about 85 percent, again, largely because of the Breeders' Cup.

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