Churchill Downs Racetrack plans to enhance the experience for owners that start horses in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and the Longines Kentucky Oaks through a $4.2 million capital improvement project that includes the construction of 20 private, open-air, all-inclusive Winner’s Circle Suites in a premium location under the Twin Spires between the sixteenth pole and finish line. The notable project also includes a remodeled Trackside Winner’s Circle and the creation of a new Courtyard that will accommodate temporary premium seating during Derby Week while providing a relaxed park-like setting for everyday racing fans.
The new and exclusive Winner’s Circle Suites will be conveniently located adjacent to the Trackside Winner’s Circle with easy access to the racetrack and paddock runway with minimized congestion. The number of complimentary tickets for all participating owners in the Derby and Oaks will be tripled to 18 tickets for their respective race day. The Winner’s Circle Suites will feature comfortable undercover seating with in-venue wagering options and full-service hospitality, including a premium open bar and gourmet food. Also, guests will have access to an indoor, semi-private hospitality area and restrooms exclusive to the venue. All areas of the project will be accessible for persons with mobility disabilities.
In prior years, owners of Oaks and Derby horses received a complimentary six-person box in Section 318, food and beverage hospitality in a separate area overlooking the paddock, and the opportunity to purchase two additional boxes in 318. Should owners require additional seating in 2015 beyond the 18 complimentary tickets provided, they may still purchase an additional box of six seats in Section 318.
There are many wonderful seating options at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks but these new Winner’s Circle Suites are where anyone who has ever owned or dreamed of owning a racehorse wants to be,” said Kevin Flanery, Churchill Downs Racetrack President. “We’re thrilled to make this investment and truly thank our Derby and Oaks owners by creating an exclusive area that will provide more complimentary tickets, food and beverage and other extraordinary amenities than ever before.”
The project is the latest investment by Churchill Downs to upgrade and enhance its historic racing and entertainment facility. More than $178 million has been devoted in the last decade to enrich the on-track experience, including: a sweeping Clubhouse and Grandstand renovation (2005); permanent lights (2010); the Plaza/Plaza Balcony (2012); The Mansion (2013); The Parlay (2013); the Grandstand Terrace (2014); and the world’s largest 4K ultra-high definition Big Board with an enhanced sound system (2014).
“Churchill Downs has proudly offered racing since 1875, and these substantial investments in our iconic landmark signify that we’re committed to ensuring the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and our everyday racing product remain viable and one of the region’s major economic engines for many years to come,” Flanery said.
The new Winner’s Circle Suites and Courtyard will be constructed in a premium location of the facility by converting what are now box seats in Section 118 and 119 Clubhouse on the south side of the paddock runway, and bleacher seats in Section 119 Grandstand and one-third of Section 120 Grandstand on the paddock runway’s north side. Total seating in the areas before renovation was 3,345, and the new space will accommodate more than 1,800.
The Courtyard, a family-friendly green space that will create a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere for everyday racing, will be a spacious lawn area in front of the new Winner’s Circle Suites. For Derby Week, more than 600 temporary premium seats will be configured in traditional rows and aisles with padded chairs, and those guests will have access to an exclusive hospitality space with an all-inclusive menu and restrooms. Seating in the existing Sections 218-219 will have access to the hospitality space, as well.
The versatile Courtyard also will be utilized to enrich the experience of big-event days throughout the rest of the year, including Downs After Dark night racing and Family Adventure Days.
Select guests that are affected by the Winner’s Circle Suites and Courtyard Project are in the process of being contacted personally by track officials, and every effort will be made to relocate those guests to a comparable area. Additionally, those guests can opt to upgrade their seating packages with new inventory, including more availability in Section 318, or premium areas that include food and beverage hospitality.
The new Courtyard seats for Derby Week will be offered to existing customers first. Any remaining inventory will be sold to the general public through an online sale in mid-November. The deadline to register for the online sale at KentuckyDerby.com/Tickets has been extended to Friday, Nov. 7.
Guests seated in most sections, including the new Winner’s Circle Suites and Courtyard, will have unobstructed views of the racetrack and the Big Board, which is 171-feet wide, 90-feet tall and towers 80-feet above the ground to top out at 170 feet high.
The Trackside Winner’s Circle will be remodeled and repositioned directly next to the paddock runway on the south side to create more space for winning horses, their connections and other dignitaries.
Construction on the $4.2 million project will begin in December after the conclusion of the Fall Meet, and will be complete before the start of the 2015 Spring Meet on Saturday, April 25, 2015.
Churchill Downs is currently working with the noted architectural firm Populous, headquartered in Kansas City, on the project designs. Populous designed downtown Louisville’s innovative KFC Yum! Center, and their other numerous projects include the new Yankee Stadium and the University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.
Churchill Downs also has retained PC Sports, a division of Texas-based Raba Kistner, Inc., to assist in the project’s management. The firm, which helped manage the expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and construction of the KFC Yum! Center, will serve as a consultant and third-party advisor to ensure the project finishes on or ahead of schedule and on budget.
A General Contractor for the project has not yet been selected.