Here's who was hanging out at the Turf Club at Churchill Downs on Derby Day

Updated

The Turf Club is one of the most exclusive spots at Churchill Downs Racetrack outside of the Mansion, and it is never short on celebrities and other high-profile guests on Derby day.

Photographer Ron Bath and I took a tour of the Turf Club in the early afternoon Saturday and were immediately inundated with famous faces, such as country music stars Kix Brooks and Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry.

We also ran into multiple sports stars, including recently retired Major League Baseball slugger David Ortiz, who has become a Boston icon for his storied tenure with the Boston Red Sox, and NFL great Jerry Rice, who dazzled audiences with his quick feet and smooth hands while playing for the San Francisco 49ers.

Ortiz is featured in our gallery. Unfortunately, Rice was moving quickly (no surprise for a hall-of-fame wide receiver) and made it to the off-limits Turf terrace before we could grab him for a photo.

Other faces we ran into included Stephen Amell of the television show “Arrow” and movie star Jesse Eisenberg, known for movies such as “The Social Network” and “Zombieland.”

Dolvett Quince, a personal trainer on “The Biggest Loser” and grand marshal of the Pegasus Parade, was gracious enough to chat with us and even recorded a video greeting for my wife, who is a big fan.

To see our full line-up of Turf Club names we ran into, check out our gallery above.

Marty Finley covers economic development, commercial and residential real estate, government and sports business.


Churchill Downs Unveiling Upgrades For Derby

Posted: Apr 05, 2017 5:26 AMUpdated: Apr 05, 2017 6:12 AM

 LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) — With just a month left until the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs is showing off its $16 million upgrade.

The overall goal is to improve circulation of customers placing bets, buying food and drinks and making their way back to their seats.

“I think more than anything they’ll see a re-imagination of the history of Churchill Downs,” said an official. “So as they’re here, the traffic flow will be much smoother. They’ll also get to take a self-guided tour.”

Nearly $250 million has been spent on renovations since 2005.


Sneak peek inside $16M upgrade at Churchill Downs Clubhouse

The long-stagnant, second-level Clubhouse area at Churchill Downs has undergone a $16 million transformation that has turned a large and somewhat shabby space into vibrant, welcoming quarters.

A few final touches remain, such as hanging some artwork, but the revamped sector at the top of the escalators just off Gate 17 will be open to all track-goers starting for simulcast wagering Wednesday, April 5, and then for the track’s spring racing season that leaves the gate April 29, said Ryan Jordan, Churchill Downs Racetrack’s general manager.

“We have a lot more amenities,” Jordan said during an unveiling of the facilities Tuesday morning. “We have doubled the number of restrooms, increased the number of wagering locations and added significantly more concession stations.”

“We have reconfigured the food court area with wider aisles for better circulation and flow. So we should have shorter lines, and people should get their food much, much quicker.”

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Much of the work is cosmetic – and has greatly spiffed up the premises. Wood-like vinyl flooring has been put down in much of the space and tile flooring installed in other areas. Walls have been redone in a combination of mostly neutral colors – including earth tones, greens and white.

The architect on the renovation was R2 Architects of New Jersey, and the chief contractor was Calhoun Construction of Louisville. The track paid for the project out of its own revenues, with no government aid, Jordan said, and work began last November.

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The modernization has encompassed most of the 95,000-square-foot Clubhouse area and was designed to improve the track experience for the roughly 13,000 guests that typically enter the space on Oaks or Derby Day, track officials said.

Other updates include:

  • The Aristides Lounge – formerly an unfinished space that was occasionally used for select events (including the Kentucky Derby Post Position Draw), “is now a permanent fixture, outfitted with table seating for nearly 300 guests, 27 flat-screen TVs and a full-service bar.”
  • The Loft at Aristides Lounge – above the Aristides Lounge and accessed by a new staircase and elevator, designed to offer intimate dining with table seating for more than 300 guests, 38 flat-screen TVs and full-service bar.
  • Champions Bar and Gold Room – an area exclusive to VIP bettors and horsemen, features seating for more than 240 guests and almost 100 TVs. The Champions Bar features 38 bar seats, 114 table seats and 46 TVs. “The Gold Room is a Las Vegas sports book-style area with 49 flat-screen TVs, 48 carrel seats, 28 table seats and 13 countertop seats, each outfitted with new Bet Pro betting machines,” the track said.
  • The Champions Bar and Gold Room Balcony – offers a view of the Paddock area and has covered table seating for approximately 130 people.

In addition, the track has upgraded food and beverage items in an improved concession area that now has nine themed stations and 25 points of sale. Jordan said the food preparation area has also undergone upgrades, with new equipment added to speed up service.

Several new bars have been developed – appropriately named after Derby winners: the Spend a Buck Bar, the I’ll Have Another Bar, the Behave Yourself Bar and the Regret Bar.

A nice break for track visitors: there will be no immediate increase in concession prices, Jordan said.

The project has included more than 60 staffed pari-mutuel wagering windows, 40 self-serve betting machines – and a more than doubling of both the men’s and women’s restrooms fixtures.

Meanwhile, with upgrades seemingly unending, the track broke ground in January on a $37 million suites tower near Turn 4. The foundation for the tower is in, with work temporarily halted but due to resume after this year’s Derby. The tower suites should be ready for Derby 2018, Jordan said.

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Churchill announced plans for the $37 million project last November. The so-called Starting Gates suites project will encompass approximately 60,000 square feet of new commercial space on the north end of Churchill Downs Racetrack’s 147-acre facility along Central Avenue.

The steel structure, which will feature three floors of individual suites, along with dining and event space, is adjacent to the Jockey Club suites, which opened in 2003. It will host 1,140 ticket guests and boasts 36 new individual suites that can accommodate groups of various sizes, track officials said previously.

Track officials have committed approximately $125 million to major capital improvements over the last eight years.

Reporter Sheldon S. Shafer can be reached at 502-582-7089, or at sshafer@courier-journal.com.


SNEAK PEEK: Churchill Downs shows off $16 million in new clubhouse improvements (PHOTOS)

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.


Churchill Downs Gate 3 Renovation

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Horse racing in Kentucky dates back to 1789, when the first race course was constructed in Lexington. Almost 100 years later, in 1875, Churchill Downs officially opened its gates in Louisville, and began its tradition as “Home of the Kentucky Derby” and the longest continually running sporting event in America.

Calhoun Construction Services served as the Construction Manager and General Contractor for the renovation of Gate 3. The Gate 3 renovation consisted of demolition of the existing gate structure, relocating the underground utilities, pour a new concrete slab at the new gate area, install removable fence panels that can configure as an entry gate, new concrete foundations for a new tent, vehicle bollards and new asphalt around the new gate area.

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Square Footage:  4,000 sqft
Year Completed:  2017
Project Location:  Louisville, Kentucky
Contract Type:  Construction Manager/General Contractor

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Timeline Photos:

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Churchill Downs Executive Office Renovation

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Calhoun Construction Services is serving as the Construction Manager and General Contractor on this renovation. The project includes demolition of 1/2 a floor of space in an occupied building, and the tenant fit-out of the space. The project happens over a tight 3 month time line from start to finish. The project has a new structural stair that connects floor 3 to floor 4, new IT pods for Churchill, along with new office, and conference rooms.

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Square Footage: 15,000
Year Completed: 2017
Project Location:  Louisville, Kentucky
Contract Type:  Construction Manager and General Contractor

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Timeline Photos:

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Churchill Downs Starting Gate Suites Addition

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Horse racing in Kentucky dates back to 1789, when the first race course was constructed in Lexington. Almost 100 years later, in 1875, Churchill Downs officially opened its gates in Louisville, and began its tradition as “Home of the Kentucky Derby” and the longest continually running sporting event in America.

Calhoun Construction Services is serving as the Construction Manager and General Contractor for the expansion creating 36 new suites. The project includes and addition of a new suite tower on top of the existing grandstand, new elevators, bars, and mutuels. The structure for the new tower is dropped through the grandstand and 2nd floor plaza. The project is done while the track
practices every day and during three meets.

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Square Footage: 60,000
Year Completed: 2018
Project Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Contract Type:  Construction Manager and General Contractor

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Timeline Photos:

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Churchill Downs 2nd Floor Clubhouse Renovation

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Horse racing in Kentucky dates back to 1789, when the first race course was constructed in Lexington. Almost 100 years later, in 1875, Churchill Downs officially opened its gates in Louisville, and began its tradition as “Home of the Kentucky Derby” and the longest continually running sporting event in America.

Calhoun Construction served as the Construction Manager for the 2017 Clubhouse Renovations that involved work across 5 different levels and had to be completed within a 4 month window. The project included mass demolition and reconstruction of the 3rd and 4th floors, new expansion of the 3rd floor, 2 new elevators, and a new outdoor balcony.

 

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Square Footage:  83,00 sq ft
Year Completed: 2017
Project Location:  Louisville, KY
Contract Type:  Construction Manager

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Timeline Photos

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Churchill Downs To Invest $37 Million on Expansion and Upgrades

Nov 17, 2016 Churchill Downs Communications

Capital Project Creates More Than 1,800 New Seats on North End of Facility

  • Up to 36 New Luxury Suites Will Host 1,140 Guests in Groups of Various Sizes
  • Event Space on Each of Three Levels Will Provide Interior Dining for 576 Guests
  • Project Includes Construction of 110 New Third-Floor Grandstand Seats

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Churchill Downs Racetrack, one of the world’s most renowned sports and entertainment venues, has announced a substantial $37 million capital project that will deliver more than 1,800 new seats for the 2018 Kentucky Derby through the addition of new luxury suites, interior dining tables and third-floor Grandstand seats.

The Starting Gate Suites capital project will encompass 77,250 square feet of new space on the north end of Churchill Downs Racetrack’s 147-acre facility. The structure, which will feature three floors of individual suites along with dining and event space, will be erected adjacent to the Jockey Club Suites, which opened in 2003.

The new luxury suites, which will feature indoor lounge seating with a bar and a private tiered balcony that overlooks the start of the Kentucky Derby at the top of the homestretch, will host 1,140 ticketed guests. Up to new 36 individual suites will be able to accommodate groups of various sizes.

Churchill Downs has 97 existing permanent suites that are an ideal setting for corporate entertainment or small celebrations with family and friends: 15 Finish Line Suites, 62 Jockey Club Suites and 20 Winner’s Circle Suites.

“The Starting Gates Suites project is our next step in the company’s ongoing efforts to improve and enhance the facilities and the customer experience at Churchill Downs,” said Kevin Flanery, President of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “The demand for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks tickets remains extraordinary with the number of reserved seating requests vastly exceeding our available inventory on an annual basis. This sweeping new addition will be a terrific benefit to our facility on many levels.”

Each of the three levels in the new Starting Gate Suites will feature event space with 24 eight-top tables for interior dining for a total of 576 seats. The project also will include the construction of 110 new third-floor Grandstand seats.

Foundation work on the construction of the Starting Gates Suites will begin in January and cease prior to the start of the 2017 Spring Meet, which will open Saturday, April 29, so that it does not affect operations during Kentucky Derby Week. Steel will be erected immediately after the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) is run for the 143rd consecutive year on Saturday, May 6.

The Starting Gate Suites project will be complete prior to the 2018 Kentucky Derby.

Guests interested in purchasing a Starting Gate Suite or more information may contact Becky Reid, Senior Director of Premium Ticket Sales, at (502) 636-4533 or Becky.Reid@KyDerby.com or John Davis, Senior Director of Sales, at (502) 636-4421 or John.Davis@KyDerby.com.

Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on May 6, 2017. The track’s Fall Meet is scheduled for Oct. 30-Nov. 27. Churchill Downs has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships eight times and the event will return to the track in 2018. Information is available at www.ChurchillDowns.com.


Churchill Downs Racetrack targets $16 million Clubhouse renovation

Oct 18, 2016, 2:48pm EDT
Churchill Downs Racetrack has targeted its next major renovation project.

The racetrack, which is owned by Louisville-based Churchill Downs Inc., said Tuesday that it will invest $16 million into the renovation of the second floor of its Clubhouse facility, a popular spot during Kentucky Derby and Oaks day and other major events.

The racetrack also is creating a new Twin Spires Club Elite Gold Room for VIP bettors that will stand beside an expanded Champions Bar that will have new covered balconies and table seating with a view of the Paddock.

Also, the Aristides Lounge — an unfinished space used for select events — will be transformed into a permanent event space with table seating and a wall of 90-inch flat-screen televisions, the release said. Furthermore, the racetrack will debut The Loft at Aristides Lounge, an enhanced dining and simulcast wagering area.

In addition to the new lounge and dining options, all decor within the renovated Clubhouse area will be a mix of modern furnishings with historical context, reflecting the past and history of the legendary racetrack, according to the release.

“Churchill Downs places the highest emphasis on customer service, and we’re listening to what our guests have told us,” Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack, said in the release. “Through recent post-event surveys, customers have steadily told us that they’d prefer better flow in our facility with less time waiting in line, more restrooms and additional food offerings.”

The project is set to start after the fall meet concludes, which runs from Oct. 30 until Nov. 27, and will be completed before the start of the 2017 spring meet on Saturday, April 29, kicking off Kentucky Derby week.

This project follows an $18 million renovation of the racetrack’s Turf Club and other premier locations completed last year by Churchill Downs Inc. (Nasdaq: CHDN).

Racetrack officials said Tuesday that $87.4 million has been spent on major capital improvements to the racetrack in the past seven years and $209.8 million since a major Clubhouse and Grandstand renovation wrapped up in 2005.