LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) - A decision to charge people to see Thunder over Louisville from a portion of the Great Lawn is causing more controversy than the Derby Festival thought it would. The head of the Derby Festival says it is a safety issue for the popular north area of the Great Lawn, but some Metro Council Members question whether it is just a ploy to make money.
At any given Thunder over Louisville, 200,000 to 500,000 people crowd Waterfront Park. It is a staple of Derby season and one that is always free, up until this year. If you want prime seating on the north side of Waterfront Park, you will have to have a Pegasus Pin. It costs $4 before the event, $5 on site.
"For working families out there, this is a $15 - $20 additional cost when they're already living paycheck to paycheck - a chance to live the Derby event when they can't enjoy other things. We're trying to keep this a viable option to attend this event,” said Brent Ackerson from D-26th District.
In a meeting Tuesday night, Councilmember Brent Ackerson asked Derby Festival officials if charging for Thunder was just to make money. Especially since, the Derby Festival loses about $100,000 every Derby season.
"If this was totally an economic issue. We would have said, let's do a $10, $25 admission to get it,” said President of Derby Festival Mike Berry.
Festival President Mike Berry says it is about safety. He says that based on complaints and what police say, the crowds on the north side are unruly and sometimes out of control, but extra revenue could help cover the $20,000 ssecurity will cost for that area.
Berry also says air shows in Tennessee, Indianapolis and Dayton cost at least $15 for general admission tickets, whereas you can pay $16 for a family pack of five Pegasus pins.
"Our studies, by looking at the Balloon Glow or Pegasus Parade, four out of five people probably already have their Pegasus pin,” said Berry.
For a family of five, you would spend more money coming to the zoo, or on five matinee movie tickets, or even a ticket to Forecastle or Abbey Road would cost you $50 to $100 a day.
However, one Pegasus pin gets you into 70 events.
"I just buy a pin to donate to the cause,” said Kris Long.
"It's definitely over populated down here, but I don't think that charging for that is right whatsoever. It should be a free event for people to enjoy for the day,” said Jessica Pearce.
"It's the only ticket in town and this year three weeks later I can still go to a concert and still use the same ticket,” said Berry.
Councilmember Ackerson also asked, once the north side is sectioned off, what is to keep people from staking claim to land in other areas along the river.
Berry said that the problem is just in the prime viewing area.