- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 15, 2002

First came the luxury boxes to professional sports. Then came the club seats, a sort of junior varsity of premium seating. And then arrived the front-row "dream seats" at FedEx Field, the Washington Redskins' attempt to put high-paying customers just a few feet away from the action.
Pimlico Race Course, site of Saturday's Preakness Stakes, seeks to turn another page in luxury sports seating with the introduction of its new Turfside Terrace seats. Located on the infield side of the adjacent turf course, just a few strides from the finish line, the seats are believed to be unprecedented in championship horse racing both in terms of location and amenities.
For $250 a ticket, fans get an up-close view of the finish line, lunch, parking and access to bars, restrooms, TV monitors and betting windows off limits to the rest of the 100,000 people expected to attend the race. The entire area previously unused space will have canopies to protect from sun and rain.
"We think this is an unparalleled view of the race," said Tim Capps, executive vice president of the Maryland Jockey Club. "You're very, very close to the finish line, at most 100 feet, and essentially right on the line. It's a very unique point of view."
Pimlico officials have created just 516 of the Turfside Terrace seats, and more than 400 have been sold. Once all the tickets are sold, the new seats will generate $129,000 in revenue. But more than money, Mr. Capps said, the effort is designed to cater to high-income individuals and corporate buyers, as well as expand the seating capacity of the 132-year-old race course.
"We've been trying to find ways to expand capacity here for some time, and that effort, as it goes forward, will comprise both regular seating and VIP seating," Mr. Capps said. "We've tipped our toe in the water with the Turfside Terrace section, and so far, we think we're on to something."
Other tickets to the Preakness range in price from $30 for infield general admission which does not provide access near the finish line to $105 for clubhouse box seats.
The general admission infield area, traditionally the draw for rowdy, uninhibited fans, will remain for now untouched.
Neither the Kentucky Derby nor the Belmont Stakes, the other two legs of horse racing's Triple Crown, offers seating closely resembling Pimlico's Turfside Terrace section. The Belmont does not allow any fans into its infield, and grandstand seats there can still be obtained for a little as $2 each. The Kentucky Derby, meanwhile, reserves the infield's prime finish-line location for its winner's circle.
"Special seating and VIP seating in general vary a lot as you go from track to track," said Jim Gluckson, senior director of event communication for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. "But this seating [at Pimlico] does seem like an interesting development. There is definitely a segment of fans who want to be really near the action and entertain people."
Even if Turfside Terrace seats become wildly popular and an annual tradition, Pimlico officials will be somewhat limited in their options in expanding the section. The temporary grandstand housing the seats has been capped at seven rows high to allow an unobstructed view from the grandstand to the race course's backstretch.
"We think this is a rather desirable place to be on race day the sales are clearly bearing that out and part of me would have wanted to do perhaps a bit more with this . But we, of course, have to be fair to everybody, and we can't risk blocking a view for somebody else," Mr. Capps said.
Staff writer Rick Snider contributed to this report.


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