Sunday, September 19, 2010

Well bred horses and homeless people.

The State of Kentucky and the City of Lexington will be hosting the World Equestrian Games for sixteen days beginning this next Saturday. As you may or may not know we have the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. The Park was created on a former Saddlebred Horse farm and purchased by the State in the late 70's. The Park was originally created in celebration of the Thoroughbred horse. Now the Park is run for all breeds and types of horses. The Kentucky Horse Park is where the World Equestrian Games will be held.
The Games are a big deal here; a really big deal. The have never been held in the United States. In fact they have never been held outside Europe. It took years of work to get them scheduled here when awarded for this year in 2005. The State has made $75 million dollars in improvements to the Park in preparation for the wide range of events and accommodations for visitors from around the world. A corporate sponsor has paid $75 to add their name to the official name of the Games. This sponsor is Alltech.

At that time before a world wide recession, it was anticipated over 600,000 people would purchase tickets and attend. As of today 325,000 tickets have been purchased. Looking at their website it's quite a clicking exercise to find out the price of tickets. I did find general admission tickets for a week day afternoon event cost $30. Feel free to investigate further if you're curious. I'm sure they are quite pricy for the good seats.

Approximately 500 horses are being airlifted this week from Europe, Australia and South America. This is the largest commercial airlift of horses ever. The FEDEX planes used in shipping these very well bred horses is specially outfitted for comfortable horse transport. As many as 24 attendants work each flight. Food is horse gourmet and their health and comfort is tantamount to ultra first class.

As many as 995 competitors will be coming from fifty-eight countries.
It is estimated even at a lower level of ticket sales the economic impact of the Games will be over $160 million. Hotels within driving distance are booking fast. Homes are being shared for a fee. Restaurants are creating special Equestrian Games menu. There are festivals, trade group shows, concerts and a myriad of events scheduled to entertain visitors and encourage them to leave bags of money here with us.Further news reported by WLEX-TV yesterday:
Discussion among people familiar with the way other Kentucky cities have handled large events, suspect police will be rounding up the homeless and depositing them in the temporary shelters just prior to the start of the Games.
Lexington's homeless are being offered two temporary shelters to sleep in while the city plays host to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

Catholic Action Center director Ginny Ramsey told the Lexington Herald-Leader that between 100 and 130 people routinely sleep on Lexington's streets, particularly Phoenix Park, during the warm weather. The group is opening the shelters from Sept. 22 through Oct. 10.
I mention the reported $1 billion short-fall predicted for the 2010-2011 budget. All State departments were asked to cut 4% from their previous budgets. Non-merit State employees are being laid off. The Legislature had to go into special session to pass a budget that does not seem to meet the needs of the state in the areas of education, Medicaid and infrastructure upkeep.

Regardless of this, $75 million was spent to improve the Horse Park and prepare for a corporate sponsored [Alltech] event. The $160+ million predicted return is not to the state. It's a return to hotels, restaurants and industry businesses.