Carry-in Drinks Banned From Preakness Infield

Associated Press
Thursday, February 5, 2009; 2:15 PM

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The infield experience at the 2009 Preakness will feature less beer, more music and 240 tons of sand.

Preakness officials announced Thursday that fans will not be allowed to bring in beverages of any kind to the public infield at Pimlico Race Course on race day, May 16.

In the past, spectators were permitted to carry an unlimited number of coolers filled with cans of beer. The new policy forbids this practice, although the track will sell 16-ounce beers for $3.50.

There will be other changes. The rock group ZZ Top and Grammy-nominated Buckcherry will perform, along with a yet-to-be-named third group. The Toyota Pro Beach East Volleyball Tour will launch its 2009 season in the infield, playing on an area covered with an estimated 240 tons of sand.

"It's time for our public infield customers to enjoy a new way to party," Maryland Jockey Club president and CEO Tom Chuckas said.

At the same old price: Tickets for the infield will remain at $50 in advance and $60 on May 16.

One goal of track officials is to make the infield a more wholesome environment than in the past, when the free flow of beer often led to arguments, fights and long lines at the portable toilets.

At Preakness Day last year, 126 people were ejected and six were arrested.

"Our goal is to make the Preakness the best experience for anyone who walks through these doors," Chuckas said. "From our perspective, by changing the alcohol policy, it gives more people the opportunity to have a pleasurable experience."

Another goal is to enable the track to enjoy a larger payday during the biggest afternoon of the year for the struggling Maryland racing industry.

"We're in business to make a profit," Chuckas acknowledged. "But there are multiple goals here. With the music and the volleyball and so on, if people aren't going to bet every race they have something else they can do. It's an upgrade of the experience."

And if getting drunk is the objective, fans will have plenty of concession stands to choose from to purchase beer and alcohol-laden Black-eyed Susans.

"I think we've priced the beer reasonably, and the other beverages will be reasonably priced," Chuckas said.

© 2009 The Associated Press