I have mixed feelings about the announcement of ticket prices for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Like so many equestrian enthusiasts, I’m beyond thrilled that the world’s best riders, drivers and vaulters are going to be arriving on our shores next year. Having attended the 2006 WEG at Aachen, Germany, I can tell you that it’s a unique and inspiring experience seeing all of the equine stars of the world converge on one place. But, like many more, I’m on a tight budget and was disappointed there’s no cheap and easy way into the stadiums.
Sandy Marrujo, an amateur eventing and dressage rider from California, had been planning a trip to Lexington, Ky., for the WEG until she saw the prices.
“I just added up the cost of airfare, hotel, and the ticket prices and realized that this would be a vacation far beyond my means,” Marrujo said. “I’m not ‘poor,’ but I live on the edge having to support two horses and myself. I drive a 21-year-old truck and pull a 16-year-old trailer. People complain that equestrian sports are reserved for the elite, and they are right in terms of competing at the top level, but do I have to be among the elite to even watch? Sorry. It’s just not going to happen.”
I would imagine that most individuals interested in attending the 2010 WEG are in similar situations—a trip to Lexington to see the best of the best is going to strain their purse strings.
Amy Walker, the 2010 Alltech FEI WEG public relations manager, noted that the ticket prices are in line with premier sporting events around the world. “The 2006 World Equestrian Games ticket prices were our starting point when we were developing the pricing structure. We also looked at World Championships in other sports matching the prestige of the WEG. We vetted our ideas with several knowledgeable sources around the world. The response was unanimous that the prices were appropriate for an event of this magnitude and importance,” said Walker.
Are the tickets expensive? For most people, the answer is yes. Are they worth it? As a former WEG attendant, I say yes. I can’t convey what it was like to watch the world’s best go head-to-head; it’s a priceless experience.
Consider how much you pay for a private lesson, or to show for a weekend. Wouldn’t it be worth giving up two lessons or one show to buy a ticket to watch names you’ve only read about compete? Imagine what you could learn.
We’re presented with a unique opportunity next year—to show the world that the U.S. public loves their horses and their top-level competition. Sports fans here pay between $500 and $2,000 for tickets to the Super Bowl, and the average price for a ticket to one 2008 World Series baseball game was $623.
We constantly complain that horse sports don’t get the respect they deserve from the general public, so we can’t turn around and say that, on the eve of the biggest equestrian competition to hit our shores, we don’t value them either. This is our chance to prove that horse sports have a dedicated audience here in the United States.