DEL MAR — After a 2020 race season with empty stands thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club has announced plans to bring fans back to the track this upcoming season.
And with COVID-19 case numbers and vaccinations continuing to track in the right direction, along with the easing of restrictions of fans at live sporting events in the state, the plans currently are to have as many fans in attendance as state and local authorities allow.
“We will continue to follow the guidance of local health officials and our medical advisers, but based on what has been announced for other local attractions such as the San Diego Padres and SeaWorld, we are optimistic we will have fans in the stands this summer at some level,” said Josh Rubinstein, president and chief operating officer of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
With the race season not set to kick off until July, plans have not yet been finalized as the DMTC will wait to see what the guidance is from local health officials.
“It’s extremely fluid right now,” Craig Dado, chief marketing officer for DMTC said. “We really don’t know what level we’ll be able to invite fans. but of course, we have a few months until opening day.”
The news comes on the heels of the San Diego Padres announcing they will have fans at Petco Park for opening day on April 1 with a 20% capacity. After seeing that announcement the DMTC felt comfortable making their intentions known as well.
The club says it will comply with all guidelines from health officials in regards to masking and social distancing.
San Diego County, like many other counties in the state, has recently moved into the COVID-19 red tier with under seven new COVID-19 cases per 100K. With case numbers continuing to show a positive movement, and more and more people becoming eligible to be vaccinated, the DMTC is excited to see fans come back after a strange year at the track.
“It’s going to be huge for morale. Del Mar is special because we tend to have big crowds,” Dado said. “Without the crowds, it just seemed very weird here.”
Having fans back in the stands will also bring in revenue missed from concessions and other on-track revenues. However, the DMTC said bets were actually up in 2020 thanks to an increase in online betting.
This year promises to be a big year for Del Mar for another reason —the annual Breeders’ Cup is scheduled to be run at the track in November. There are hopes that by then even more fans will be able to attend one of the biggest horse racing events of the year, which returns to Del Mar for the first time since 2017.
“I’m hopeful that by November there’s a chance that we could be back to normal. But that is way out into the horizon,” Dado said. “But barring anything unforeseen we’re very hopeful that we could see 100% occupancy for the Breeders’ Cup. But again, we need to wait and see.”