LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Kentuckiana is ready to cash in on the Kentucky Derby.
Hotels and restaurants report a surge in business and reservations even as prices increase with the demand.
"It's the best week of the year," said cab driver Jerry Hart, "a lot of hours."
"I think Derby is back," said Michael Howerton, Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau Chairman. "From a hotel standpoint, we're having a great year."
Howerton, the Market Vice President and General Manager of the Marriott Louisville, said the downtown hotel is sold out for Derby but a few rooms remain at other area hotels.
Most hotels' Derby packages require a three night stay at premium prices.
Howerton says at the Marriott that comes with a premium Derby experience. $25,000 on roses alone.
"This is the event of the year when we pull out all the stops," he said. "Derby is an integral part of how we do business in Louisville, Kentucky."
Derby is also a sure bet for Louisville's booked solid restaurants.
"For Louisville restaurants, this is Christmas, Fourth of July and everything all wrapped up together because it's so busy," said restaurant veteran Steve Coomes, Insider Louisville's food critic, "because it happens in about five days."
In his Insider Louisville column, Coomes argued that the high demand doesn't justify gouging Derby diners.
"Fifty percent of the people who are coming here to your restaurants are locals," Coomes said. "They're not going to your hotels year round and they're not going to Churchill Downs year round."
"This is their week," countered racing fan Dawn Myers. "Every city in the country has their week that they can raise prices and expect to get those kind of prices and they should."
Meanwhile, Churchill Downs disclosed on Tuesday that a limited number of tickets are still available for Oaks and Derby Day in its newest premium seating area, section 110 on the first turn.
"It's a clubhouse, you have a view of the track, view of the Twin Spires," said Tricia Amburgey,
Churchill Downs Vice-President. "You're going to feel like My Old Kentucky Home is being sung directly to you."
Section 110 tickets are $698 per person and include access both Oaks and Derby Days, and unlimited food and beverage service.
Outside the track, Sheri and Jerry Cornwell still can't believe their good fortune. When the couple moved into a home in Churchill Downs' backyard four years ago, they had no idea they were sitting on a gold mine.
The family now clears as much of their rental property as possible, valet parking 12 to 14 cars on Oaks and Derby Day at $100 per vehicle.
"The street is closed for the day and there's a police roadblock here on the corner," Cornwell said. "Our customers pull up in front of the house, give us their keys and walk away to the front gate."
The $2500 profit for those two days alone pays for several months rent.
Some of the Kentucky Derby's biggest business is small business. Each t-shirt, hat and stuffed animal add up.
More than 100 volunteers from Go Ministries staff souvenir stands at the track. The charity does mission and water purification work in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
"The company that runs these get trustworthy individuals to handle the money and sell all these products and our organization gets a significant amount of money for it," said Reid Olson of
The non-profit pockets $60,000 for their work -- their biggest fundraiser of the year.
A local real estate agent reports that three-day rentals of Louisville homes range from $1500 to $9000.
Miller Transportation has invested in new Oaks and Derby Shuttles, a windfall for part-time drivers.
By day, Derby shuttle driver Ron Rieger is a waterproofing contractor. But the Derby season work nets him about $1000.
"Financially, it's fun and that's a good benefit and also going out to Churchill Downs and the whole experience itself," Rieger said.
Miller Transportation Oaks and Derby Shuttles
Downtown – Shuttle Only
Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium - $15
Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center - $8
Shuttle Fares (Round Trip):
Downtown - $20
Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium - $15
Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center - $15
7:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
All shuttle services are ADA accessible.
Downtown Shuttle Stops:
1. Foot of the bank steps on Main Street facing west just before 5th street.
2. Under the pedestrian bridge on 3rd Street which connects the Marriott hotel with the parking garage to the Hyatt hotel.
3. South side of Broadway east of 3rd Street (If bus has open seats)
(There is a Subway Sub Shop on that corner and interested patrons for the service should wait just east of the corner so the bus can make the turn and get parallel to the curb to pick them up)
New info about Miller Transportation shuttle services year:
· All buses equipped with AC.
· The taxis have been moved from gate one to 4th and Central so the bus loading zone has been doubled.
· Completely new traffic patterns, the routes are much shorter
· The frequency is continuous. There will always be a bus at the loading points.
· The bus loading will occur in groups of 11 buses. There are 5 groups of 11 so the service should run with 55 buses. We will have a few extra for hot spots, so there will be 60 buses.
· Prior to 4 pm only round trip tickets are sold. After 4 pm one way tickets from CD are $10 for any location.
Phone: (502) 368-5633