By Amanda Yeager | Baltimore Business Journal
The Preakness Stakes will run before a limited number of socially-distanced spectators when the race returns this spring.
Organizers of the Triple Crown race announced in March that the race will be capped at 10,000 guests in 2021. Tickets for the Preakness, scheduled for May 15 at Pimlico Race Course, went on sale April 5.
In a release, the Maryland Jockey Club and Pimlico’s Canada-based owner, the Stronach Group, said the decision to restrict the audience to 10,000 spectators was the result of “consultation with and by approval of local and state health and governmental authorities.”
“While fan attendance will be limited due to COVID-19 protocols, the excitement of the Preakness is not limited,” Belinda Stronach, president and CEO of the Stronach Group and its racing arm, 1/ST Racing, said in a statement. “The 1/ST team has worked tirelessly and in cooperation with Baltimore City and the State of Maryland to thoughtfully and safely prepare for an exciting and memorable day of world-class thoroughbred horse racing and entertainment.”
The 146th Preakness Stakes will return to its regular calendar slot of the third Saturday in May after being rescheduled last year due to the pandemic. COVID-19 pushed the 2020 race to October, making it the third leg in the Triple Crown — which also includes the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes — rather than the second. Just 250 people were allowed to attend the race.
Before the pandemic, the Preakness consistently drew more than 100,000 spectators. The 2019 Preakness Stakes had 131,256 people in attendance.
Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision in March to raise capacity limits on sporting venues to 50 percent opened the door to several thousand fans at the race track.
In a statement, the governor said hosting guests at the race “is another sign we are on the road back to normal.”
Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott also issued a statement, saying he is “excited to welcome fans back” to the race.
“Sustaining the health and safety of Baltimore residents is my top priority, and I am confident the staff at 1/ST and the Maryland Jockey Club will protect the health of fans by following the safety guidelines set forth by the City of Baltimore and State of Maryland,” Scott said.
The Stronach Group indicated that ticketholders who had opted to roll over their 2020 tickets to 2021 will have a chance to choose equivalent seating for this year’s race. The seating manifest has been altered to allow for social distancing. Tickets for this year’s race range in price from $150 to $500.
Organizers said the annual InfieldFest music festival will not be held in 2021 due to health and safety concerns amid the ongoing pandemic. Instead, there will be 1/ST EXPERIENCE, a “reimagined entertainment and curated hospitality experience inclusive of COVID-19 protocols,” incorporating indoor dining in the grandstand and “premium outdoor viewing” from the Turfside Terrace and other suites. A “Preakness LIVE” schedule of musical entertainment will run with the NBC broadcast of the race.
A Corporate Village will offer “luxury open air cabanas” as well as lounge seating on the home stretch, according to the release.
COVID-19 safety protocols at the Preakness will include temperature scans at the entrance to the race track, physical distancing requirements, hand sanitization stations and mandatory mask-wearing. Spectators who are fully vaccinated will have the option of a fast-track entry.
Photo Credit: NBC Sports Group