Apr 4, 2017, 1:14pm EDT
With only a month standing between now and the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs Racetrack is showing off its new upscale offerings.
Racetrack president Kevin Flanery and general manager Ryan Jordan gave local media a tour of the track’s $16 million enhancements to its second-floor clubhouse. The clubhouse sits between the paddock and the racetrack itself, offering wagering booths, food and beverage services, bars and restroom facilities.
With the upgrades, Churchill Downs has modernized about 95,000 square feet in the clubhouse to improve circulation and service. During larger events, the clubhouse typically hosts 13,000 or more guests.
The project included the addition of more than 220 flat-screen televisions, which replaced outdated analog versions. The clubhouse also has new food and beverage options, including multiple themed stations that offer about 25 new points of sale.
Flanery said the former configuration was set up as a food court with only a few points of sale, which led to long lines that disrupted the flow of the clubhouse. The new setup also removes the need to stand in separate lines for food and alcohol, he said.
“Lines are lines,” Flanery said. “People want to be out on the track.”
Jordan pointed out that the hallways in the clubhouse have doubled in width to improve walkability and flow, and Churchill Downs has created several small bars named after past Kentucky Derby winners.
That includes the Behave Yourself Bar, the I’ll Have Another Bar, the Spend a Buck Bar and what Flanery called the appropriately titled Regret Bar.
With the upgrades, Churchill Downs has also added more than 180 new pari-mutuel wagering windows, self-serve betting machines and other wagering equipment. It also more than doubled the number of restroom stalls inside the clubhouse, to 133.
And the clubhouse has new lounge and event amenities, including The Aristides Lounge, named after the first Kentucky Derby winner.
The lounge is in space that previously was used for storage and as temporary event space during the Derby and other special events. Now, it has table seating for about 300 guests, 27 flat-screen televisions and a full-service bar.
The lounge also includes graphics honoring Aristides and its jockey, Oliver Lewis, as well as mosaic wallpaper created from vintage wagering tickets.
Flanery said the clubhouse redesign is a re-imagining of Churchill Downs’ vaunted history, paying respects to the past while modernizing for the future. For instance, a pari-mutual wagering machine used in the early 1900s is on display, and Churchill Downs is adding murals honoring winning jockeys, graphics honoring past Derby and Oaks winners and a wall of fame.
Above the Aristides Lounge is The Loft at Aristides Lounge, a new event space for VIP guests that can seat about 300 or more guests for intimate dining and events. The lounge has more than three dozen flat-screen televisions and a full-service bar. A staircase has been built to access the Loft.
Also, racetrack officials have expanded the Champions Bar and Gold Room, a sweeping sports bar concept and wagering area for VIP bettors and horsemen that seats more than 240 and has nearly 100 televisions in multiple rooms.
Flanery said the space was designed for those who follow horse racing religiously and want to keep up with races at other tracks year-round.
To add to this amenity, Churchill Downs has added a balcony outside of the Champions Bar and Gold Room that includes an awning and seating for about 130 people overlooking the Paddock, where a new video board has been installed.
With these enhancements, the track and its parent company, Louisville-based Churchill Downs Inc. (NASDAQ: CHDN), have invested about $125 million toward major capital improvements at the racetrack in the last seven years and nearly $250 million since the massive Clubhouse and Grandstand renovation in 2005.
Looking ahead, the racetrack has broken ground on a $37 million three-story addition that will add 1,800 seats in luxury suites, dining areas and a third-floor grandstand.
The 77,250-square-foot Starting Gate Suites will be at the north end of the racetrack, next to the Jockey Club Suites. The project will add as many as 36 luxury suites with indoor lounge seating and a private tiered balcony. Each of the three levels in the addition will have event space with dining tables.
That project will be ready in time for the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
Marty Finley covers economic development, commercial and residential real estate, government and sports business.
Tags: Calhoun Construction, Churchill Downs, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Kevin Flanery, Louisville bars, Louisville Construction Management, Louisville Kentucky, Ryan Jordan, Turf Club