Evans: First HullabaLOU An "Expensive Education"

The CEO of Churchill Downs, Incorporated says the company will try to make the HullabaLOU festival profitable, but the event’s first year turned out to be an “expensive education.”

Churchill Downs disclosed this week that the July festival lost more than $5 million.

CEO Robert Evans told investors in a conference call Thursday that was about twice what officials had expected to lose getting the event off the ground.

“We decided to spend the money to get the right artists, get the right venue, and the right level of customer service, and take the risk that we could sell enough tickets, parking, sponsorship, food and beverage and branded merchandise to keep the planned loss at $2-$3 million.

Officials had hoped attendance would exceed 90,000 for the three-day event.

Evans says the actual attendance of about 78,000 didn’t meet expectations because of a general decline in the concert business this year and the hot weather that kept away many day-of-show ticket buyers.

He says the festival will return next year as the company tried to build its brand, but it’s long-term viabililty is uncertain.