Cheap Beer, Short Lines Promised for Friday Night's Encore of Downs After Dark

Jun 26, 2009 Darren Rogers

Churchill Downs officials have assured customers of cheap beer and short lines when night racing returns to the Louisville racetrack on Friday at 6 p.m. (all times Eastern).

Last week’s debut of “Downs After Dark” – three special nighttime racing programs scheduled for June 19, this Friday and Thursday, July 2 – lured 28,011 fans. It was deemed a great success on many levels as the home of the Kentucky Derby was transformed into the ultimate nighttime hot spot in Louisville – an upscale evening at the races for on-track patrons with added entertainment and unique food offerings.

While the special and festive atmosphere was effectively created, the evening wasn’t perfect and Churchill Downs officials want to make it right.

“No one should ever have to wait in line for an extended period of time to purchase a drink,” said Bill Carstanjen, Churchill Downs Incorporated’s Chief Operating Officer. “Believe me, we feel awful. It was unacceptable to our customers and it is unacceptable to us. A lot of planning went into making last Friday a success and a great new experience for our fans. We did a lot of things right, but, clearly, we did not meet customer service expectations when it came to food and beverage service. We just hope those fans who were frustrated by long lines give us another chance. Believe me, we have learned from our staffing mistake and it will not happen again.”

Immediately, Churchill Downs officials announced that operational flaws would be fixed for Friday night’s second nighttime offering, and there’d be a few special twists.

Officials took out a full-page ad in Wednesday’s Courier-Journal that served as a thank-you note and open apology to fans for the operational mishap. In part, the letter read: “We apologize that many of you experienced long lines for concessions, and we promise to fix this problem for this Friday’s installment of night racing.”

$1 Beer from 4-8 p.m.; $2 Beer from 8 p.m. to Midnight

As a make-good to its loyal fans, Churchill Downs is offering special extended “Friday Happy Hour” prices, highlighted by 12-ounce Budweiser Select draft beers in the paddock area for just $1 from 4-8 p.m. and $2 from 8 p.m. to midnight. Also, hot dogs will be $2 and margaritas and daiquiris will be $3 from 4-8 p.m.

Twice the Points of Sale, Triple the Staff; Executives to Serve Beer from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Churchill Downs also will have twice the points of sale for concessions, triple the staff and add more than 50 walk-around beer vendors. Among those selling and pouring beverages from 4:30-6:30 p.m. in the paddock near Gate 17 will be Churchill Downs Incorporated President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Evans; Churchill Downs Incorporated Chief Operating Officer Bill Carstanjen; and Churchill Downs General Manager Jim Gates.

Transformation Returns

Many of the ancillary activities that made the historic June 19 program special will return, including a transformed paddock area that has the look and feel of an upscale night club. The comfortable free-seating options, specialty bars and food stations, colorful buntings, mood lighting, spotlights and seasonal greenery will be back.

Popular VJ Returns to Spin Tunes

Most importantly, internationally renowned VJ 2ndNature from Atlanta will return complete with his tunes, spectacular lighting and accompanying video that brought the party in the paddock to a new level. He’ll be spinning tunes from 8:30 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. Meanwhile, Sounds Unlimited Production’s locally based DJ D-Rock will warm up the crowd with his turntable from 4-8:30 p.m.

Also, there will be live salsa music for the private VIP parties on the Clubhouse balconies and standards sung inside the Triple Crown Room for patrons in the Phase I Jockey Club Suites.

General Information: Gates Open at 4 p.m., First Race at 6 p.m., Admission $6

Admission gates will open at 4 p.m. – two hours before the 6 p.m. first live race. The final four races will be run under the lights. Sunset is scheduled for 9:10 p.m. with Race 8 to coincide with the end of civil twilight at 9:41 p.m. The final race of the night has an 11:11 p.m. post time.

General admission for night racing at Churchill Downs on Friday, June 26 and Thursday, July 2 is $6 (down from $10 last Friday) and just $1 for seniors 60 and up and members of Churchill Downs’ free customer rewards program, the Twin Spires Club. Also, all season passes will be honored at admission gates, and admission is free for children 12 and under when accompanied by an adult.

Reserved seats have filled quickly. “Date Night” dinner and dancing packages for $39.95 per person in Millionaires Row and the Skye Terrace are nearly sold out. Plus, there’s only a limited number of the special $10 package that includes general admission, a box seat in the third-floor clubhouse and an official program. To reserve a seat, call (502) 636-4400.

Free Parking, Shuttles at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium

Customers are encouraged to utilize the free parking that is offered at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium starting at 4 p.m. There will be free round-trip shuttle service throughout the evening with drop off at Gate 17 and pick up at Gate 1. On-site parking at Churchill Downs – free in the Longfield Avenue lot – is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Horses & Special Wagering Options

A total of 102 horses have been entered to compete on the 11-race program. The wagering menu is highlighted by a special $100,000 guaranteed pool for the Pick 4 on Races 4-7 (pick the winners of four consecutive races) and a six-day Pick 6 carryover of $33,609 on Races 6-11 (pick the winners of the last six races on the card). Also, there will be two races that feature the Z-5/Super Hi-5 (pick the top five finishers in order) on Races 6 and 11.

Warm Weather

According to the National Weather Service, Friday’s Louisville forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies and a high near 91 degrees with a low around 72. There’s a 30-percent chance of showers and thunderstorms mainly before 2 p.m. with a 3-7 mph west wind.

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