CHURCHILL DOWNS, KY — The recession’s latest victim is Kentucky’s signature event, and its reach, as in good times, extends far from Churchill Downs.
“It’s very slow this year,” said Joseph Busenhart, owner of Lexington’s Thoroughbred Limousine and a 50% percent financial backer of Classic & Affordable Limousine.
Those two companies have 14 limos and in years past easily sold out. This year they still have limos available.
“We have a lot of people looking for just one-day reservations and the best bargains,” he said. Also, he typically requires a two-day rental package but not this year.
A regular limousine in years past was around $4,000 per day with a minimum two-day rental. This year, the one day rate is $700. Sport-utility vehicle stretch limos had ranged anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000. This year, the bargain price is $4,500.
Gold Shield Transportation, which provides limos, buses and upscale regular SUVs, said it’s seeing more requests for the cheaper vehicles in its fleet.
“People are really not requesting the stretch SUVs,” said President and CEO George Doyle.
The company also has seen cuts in how many vehicles groups take. “One place had five or six limos last year and is doing just two this year,” Doyle said.
Lexington’s swanky parties also are taking a hit. Citing the economy, organizers earlier this year canceled the Lexington Derby Ball, which raised money for the Lexington Cancer Foundation.
The Makenna Foundation is proceeding, though, with its Evening of Champions party on Derby Eve. There already have been between 450 and 500 tickets already sold for the party that benefits the Makenna David Pediatric Emergency Center at Kentucky Children’s Hospital.
A place to stay? Easy. In years past, Lexington’s Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa typically sold out of rooms six to nine months before Derby Day.
This year, though, the hotel has something close 25% of its rooms still available, said Marci Krueger, director of sales and marketing. “Historically, we would never have any to sell at this time,” she said.
It usually caters to businesses that either have horses running in the Derby or are bringing in people to entertain. Krueger said many prefer to stay in Lexington because it’s closer to horse farms, the bourbon distilleries, and other sightseeing adventures.
The idea of spending lavishly to attend a sporting event when times are so tough scared off some potential clients, he said. Some, she said, just “outright canceled because of the perception of going to a high-profile event.”
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader/Kentucky.com