|Lone Star Park Sets Record on Pre-Race
Breeders' Cup Ticket Sales
From the April 1, 2004 print
edition of the Dallas Business Journal
by David Giddens, Staff Writer
Lone Star Park officials estimate they have pre-sold approximately 34,000
seats for the 2004 Breeders' Cup, a record for pre-race sales for thoroughbred
horse racing's most prestigious competition.
With seven months before the Oct. 30 event, three-fifths of an expected
crowd of 50,000 have already been identified, said G.W. Hail, Lone Star
Park's vice president of sales and marketing.
"Having opened just seven years ago, we are the youngest track
to ever land a Breeders' Cup," Hail said.
Although the Breeders' Cup is horse racing's equivalent to the Super
Bowl or the World Series, Hail said a $25,000 study conducted in December
and January by Russell Research revealed an abysmal lack of local awareness
of the event.
The report, commissioned by Lone Star Park and The Richards Group, the
ad agency for the park, indicated that while three out of five respondents
were aware of the Breeders' Cup, only one in 10 knew that it would be
held at Lone Star Park this year. Only two out of five respondents who
had visited Lone Star Park in 2003 were aware the track had been selected
to host the event in 2004.
The online study consisted of 1,335 interviews and targeted residents
who had attended an outdoor event or activity in the Dallas-Fort Worth
area in the past 12 months. Because about 60% of the crowd is expected
to come from within the state, an extra effort needed to be applied on
a local level, Hail said.
"The good news was that once our survey group was made aware that
we would be hosting the Breeders' Cup, half of them expressed strong interest
in attending," Hail said. That prompted the implementation of an
aggressive marketing campaign that has been the major factor in setting
the record pre-race sales figure, he said.
Damon Thayer, vice president for Breeders' Cup Marketing, said large
tracks, such as Santa Anita (host of the 2003 Breeders' Cup in Los Angeles),
easily sell out of reserved seating three to four weeks in advance of
the event and have large infields to accommodate additional crowds. Lone
Star Park's infield is unsuited for spectator use.
"The situation at Lone Star Park is similar to what we had in 2002
in Chicago at Arlington Park, where we went with a pre-sold marketing
plan and did about 45,000," he said. "We didn't quite sell out
in Chicago, but with 11,000 tickets left seven months before the event,
and based on the demand for tickets, it looks like we will be looking
at a sellout at Lone Star Park -- at least I hope so."
Jeff Cogen, chief operating officer for the Texas Rangers, said the
pre-event sales racked up by Lone Star Park are not surprising, considering
the principals involved.
"G.W. -- he gets it," Cogen said. "From what I understand,
they did a lot of B-to-B, grassroots, below-the-radar activity to set
the stage for that success."
Lone Star Park typically spends $2 million annually in local media buys
to promote its racing season. Advertising expenditures for the Breeders'
Cup alone will hit between $500,000 and $1 million, Hail said. The Breeders'
Cup also is expected to spend an unspecified amount to advertise the race.
"The Breeders' Cup produced the materials, and we wrote the advertising
plan," Hail said, which includes television spots during the NBA
and NHL all-star games and the Sunday night sports programs featured on
local network affiliates WFAA-TV (Channel 8) and KXAS-TV (Channel 5).
The Richards Group did the strategic planning and handled media buying
duties, while the Breeders' Cup has handled the creative aspects.
Breeders' Cup promos also ran during CBS' coverage of the first and
second rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament, and a six-week run of
staggered local radio spots began March 29. NBC, which will cover the
Breeders' Cup, will promote the race in its coverage of this year's Triple
The track began its ticket promotions, advertising and marketing design
work months earlier than previous Breeders' Cup host tracks and started
its print media efforts on Super Bowl Sunday.
Tickets -- to be allocated in a random drawing -- range in price from
$25 to $125 (not including corporate suites and box seats). They and are
available only with an advance application (see www.lonestarpark.com)
and payment, both due by June 4.
The event is expected to generate nearly $52 million in economic activity
across the Dallas-Fort Worth area, according to 2001 analysis by Dallas-based
Weinstein & Associates. That same report estimates that host city
Grand Prairie will see nearly $18 million in new spending, $20 million
in economic activity and a total increase in income of $6.8 million.
"The focus on hosting the Breeders' Cup began as soon our citizens
approved the sales tax levy in 1992," said Grand Prairie Mayor Charles
England. "We knew then what this event, which by the way attracts
some of the richest people in the world, would mean for this city and
for the entire Dallas-Fort Worth region."