Among the many topics pertaining to the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games that have generated lots of virtual ink is the cost of attending. A number of horse-sport enthusiasts have complained that the tickets are expensive, the lodging is at price-gouging levels, and the event is out of reach for all but the more affluent equestrians.
So I decided to put on my reporter's hat to try to figure out just how outrageous the pricing of all things WEG really is.
Some readers may not like my conclusion, which is: Attending the WEG won't set you back more than attending most other premium events, and it's a lot less expensive than some.
Here's a brief sampling of comparisons. I browsed Ticketmaster.com (purveyor of WEG tickets, by the way) and a few other ticket-selling sites for prices to this spring and summer's hot concert tours. Expect to pay close to $100 for a sort-of-OK seat (pack your binoculars); you might be able to snag a nosebleed seat for around $60, while the really awesome seats (if you can get them) can run into the hundreds of dollars. And that's just for face value, not what you'll pay after the odious practice of reselling.
The natural next place to look was the official site of the just-concluded 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. Tickets to the alpine-skiing events cost between $80 and $150 (yes, in Canadian dollars). OK, you could have gotten into cross-country skiing for as little as $25, but decent seats to the figure-skating events ran $250, with the best seats costing more than $400.
I concluded my quickie price comparison with a look at the 2010 Super Bowl. Yikes! Football generally isn't thought of as an upper-crust sport, but the prices sure are. Face value alone of Super Bowl tix was in the $500-$800 range. Hotel rooms in Miami, where the game was held, were going for $350 a night, with some higher-end properties selling out despite raising their rates to $1,000 and up per night.
A glance at the WEG ticket-price ranges on Ticketmaster.com shows that most are priced between $45 and $95. A few are lower (para-equestrian dressage, vaulting), and some are higher (opening ceremonies, dressage, jumping, and the stadium phase of eventing). Admitted, the actual price of attending an entire event may be higher if it's been split into parts, each requiring a separate admission ticket. For example, driven dressage will be run as two parts on the same day, so to see the whole thing you'll have to buy two tickets, a practice that does seem a bit gouge-y.
And yes, the Lexington-area hotels have jacked up their rates. A lower-tier hotel in which I've stayed numerous times on business trips to Lexington for $89/night is charging around $300/night during the WEG. I don't like it, but then again I'm afraid that capitalism-in-action and what-the-market-will-bear are practically inevitable whenever a location hosts a major event, at least in the US.
Attending the WEG is not an inexpensive proposition, to be sure. Neither is attending the Olympics or a Super Bowl. These are major, elite-level competitions. They're expensive to produce. They're held in singular locations, meaning that most fans have to pay to get there and pay to stay there. The WEG is not just another horse show. It is a high-end international championships. Frankly, I never expected it to be dirt cheap.
I love live music, but I don't attend a lot of major concerts because of the ticket prices. But I splurge every once in a while for an artist I really want to see. The last summer Olympic Games to be held in the US (Atlanta, 1996) I treated the same way. Going to the Games was a big thing: expensive and time-consuming. It also produced priceless memories and was a trip I will always cherish.
For many of us horse people, the 2010 WEG is the biggest thing to come to American soil since the Atlanta Olympics. Keep that in mind when you review the price lists. If you go, I hope it's indeed the trip of a lifetime.