Churchill Downs Planning Major Renovations; Track Investing $37M In Expansion & Upgrades

by | 11.17.2016 | 5:09pm
Artist rendering of planned renovations to Churchill Downs. (view from infield)

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.

Artist rendering of one of the new double-suites

Artist rendering of one of the new double-suites

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 [email protected] or John Davis, Senior Director of Sales, at (502) 636-4421 or [email protected]

  • albert


    • David

      Implicit is the backside and all that goes with CD racing operations pay for this and other facility improvements. Actually what’s paying for it is that which goes with racing on but a few days, largely made possible by individuals other than those inhabiting the backside the other days. I’m for CD making backside improvements and contributing to fostering retired t’breds but (if they so choose) such is courtesy of the demand known as the Kentucky Derby, not the day-to-day racing program.

      • we’re watching

        That’s ridiculous. It’s all well and good to improve for two or three big days,BC included,but let’snot forget what got them there. They used to have a robust weekday program of racing. They forgot how to run it, instead constricting their days an doing nothing for the true fans and spectators of the sport. Hopefully they will realize they need improvement all over and not just for three days.
        Lower takeout would be niceforstarters.

        • David

          Here’s a flash – lowering the take simply increased churn but won’t cure the underlying problem that most everyone (eventually) loses which, by the way, is why the weekday program is no longer “rebust”; younger generations don’t have the passion of their predecessors and can recognize a sucker bet when they see it.

      • longshot

        Ok David I see your one of the CDI suits that doesn’t give a hoot about people who race horses for a living or horse racing as a whole. Just as long as you close down racetracks and open up casinos you’ll be happy. And as long as you can gouge the horseracing fan out of all their money like $6 beers and a bottle of water for $ 2.25 that they buy at Sams for $3.00 a case than I guess you’ll be happy. All people like you care about is the bottom line not Throughbred racing

        • Ky Race Fan

          Try $4 for bottled water,that is the going rate at CDI. The food in the court is average at best,with a higher than normal price tag. A CDI suit is usually a empty one.

        • David

          Agree totally. Simply defending themselves they reside in the “stadium” category doesn’t justify the over-the-top prices. But, if wagering must remain the economic engine of the industry, racing’s decline will continue even with happy hours and such. Young people today play fantasy football but (apparently) don’t even watch the games; you think they’re going to come (to the track) other other than special occasions days to lose? They’re not.

          • longshot

            You got a point there

  • Al Milano

    I have a lot of respect for these folks, but at best this physical plant will have a max of 3 days per year to pay for itself (Derby Day for sure and the BC if it comes back to Churchill every now and then). Otherwise, how many of these suites will be occupied with fans who want to watch $5,000 non winners of 2 compete?

    Correct me if I’m wrong.

  • longshot

    Nice to see them spend the money they
    made burying Hollywood Park and Calder

    • David

      And from a shareholder and Louisville Community perspective, that’s bad?

      • longshot

        Its bad if you lived in Hollywood or Miami and made your living racing horses

        • David

          Indeed not. Like many others, this industry is reshaping and is looking a bit different on the other side. Fact is South FL and Southern CA had reached a point of not being able to sustain multiple tracks. Churchill isn’t the culprit, it’s about an industry in decline versus alternative opportunity in things like real estate yield, redundant facilities and diminishing return.


    Really is long overdue. When of all places a racetrack takes in the kind of money and attention that CD does on Oaks/Derby and Breeders Cup Day (especially Derby Day) it should be putting in millions annually to making the facilities more user friendly, comfortable and modern. It wouldn’t hurt if they built a 10-story indoor parking lot, with four entrances and exits. That sounds like a lot of money but it will be made back in 2017. They should also build a dozen $5 million year-round four bedroom condos, taking in another $60 million, more than half of it profit.

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