CDI Venture: Derby/Oaks Packages

CDI Venture: Derby/Oaks Packages
Following the lead of other premier sporting events such as the Super Bowl, Churchill Downs Inc. has partnered up a with full-service travel agent to offer event packages for its two biggest days of racing, the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) Presented by Yum! Brands and the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).

Quint Events, an Atlanta-based agency that handles selected events for the National Football League and other major sports, is offering packages including both Derby and Oaks tickets that range from $1,649 to $11,399, depending on accommodation requirements.

The joint venture with Quint Events is a first of sorts for Churchill Downs, which last year dabbled successfully on its own in package programs, said Tom Schneider, Churchill Downs’ assistant general manager and vice president of guest services.

“It went very well, and it led us to turn around and say we have a need, that we have more of a demand than we know how to handle in-house,” said Schneider of Churchill Downs effort of package-selling last year. “We have seen more customer demand over the last four years; a call for product that is turn-key for them to enjoy perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

An official with Quint Events, which is contracted by the NFL for similar package selling for such events as the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, among others, claims the interest in the packages has been “fantastic” since its designation as “Official Worldwide Ticket and Hospitality Partner” for the Derby and Oaks was announced last month.

“The response has been great so far, from both families who view it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buyers of corporate packages,” said Quint Events president Brian Learst. “We have some things in the packages that aren’t available elsewhere and access to facilities that can make it a better experience.”

According to the Quint Events Web site, packages are available in nearly every area of Churchill Downs, ranging from the grandstand area to famed Millionaire’s Row. The Millionaire’s Row packages, which range from $8,999 to $11,999 based on three nights of hotel accommodations, also include open premium bar and gourmet food and access to a viewing platform, among other amenities. Without hotel, the price for the Millionaire’s Row package is $6,999 per person.
Schneider said the amount of tickets CDI allocated to Quint Events represents less than 2% of all those available for the two high-profile days of racing, which he said "for the most part" are sold out.

“They are scattered; literally, there is not a section left out,” he said of the Quint Events offering. “We feel there are packages available to meet any request.”

In 2006, Churchill Downs entered into a ticket-brokering sponsorship arrangement with an online agency, but pulled the plug on that deal after it accused the company of scalping tickets for more than face value.

Schneider said the arrangement with Quint Events had nothing to do with CDI trying to control scalping of tickets. And he said, contrary to some speculation, tickets are not being taken from long-time customers.

“They are not taken from anybody; in fact; over the last four years, we have done a great job taking care of those that are loyal to us,” he said. “There are people that are spending a lot of money with us: The more participation with us, the more the access.”

CDI in 2004 unveiled a Personal Seating License program that sold 30-year seat rights to customers for fees ranging from $18,000 to $75,000, excluding the cost of the tickets themselves. The PSL program generated about $18.9 million in sales in 2004, according to CDI’s annual report for that year, and through late 2006, applied to about 5% of all Churchill Downs seating, according to a The Blood-Horse interview at the time with track president Steve Sexton.

Schneider said CDI offered a PSL program in 2007 that offered licensing for five years, and this year is offering one-year programs that include an option for a one-year renewal. A brochure detailing the 2008 offering shows PSL fees range from $80 per year for certain grandstand seats up to $12,000 per year for certain seats in the Skye Terrace, not including the actual price of the seats.

“It’s a limited offering,” Schneider said. “It’s not a staggering inventory. But it’s a very popular program.

“We saw the success in some of the other sports with personal seat licensing, and it was a great answer for us,” he continued. “It’s a great offer to loyal folks and locks them in. The biggest thing I have heard from them is that it gives them peace of mind.”

Quint Events also offers sports packages to such events as golf’s U.S. Open, The Masters and the Ryder Cup; auto racing’s Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500; the Iron Man Triathlon; college basketball’s NCAA Final Four; and major league baseball’s All-Star Game; as well as non-sporting events such as the Grammy Awards.

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