Getting the Big Picture: Churchill Downs to Install $12M, 15,224-Square Foot HD Video Board

by | 10.07.2013 | 9:29am
Rendering of how Churchill Downs will look once the 'Big Board' is installed at the facility

Ever been that fan who spent the day at the Kentucky Oaks or Kentucky Derby but never saw a horse? That won't be a problem starting with next year's races as Churchill Downs gets the “Big Picture”.

Churchill Downs has teamed with Panasonic in a $12 million project to install a 15,224-square-foot, high-definition (HD) LED video board in time for the 2014 Longines Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.

The video board will be installed about midway along the backstretch and outside the dirt course of the historic track. This position maximizes the 170-degree viewing angle for fans in the 55,638 clubhouse and grandstand seats and the tens of thousands of fans in the track's famous 26-acre infield.

The bottom edge of the 171-foot wide video board will be 80 feet above the ground and will top out at 170 feet in height making it the largest high definition video board currently constructed anywhere in the world. The video board and supporting steel structure will weigh over 1,000,000 pounds and must be capable of withstanding winds of up to 85 miles per hour.

Safety of jockeys and horses have been paramount in the design and engineering of this project with the location, height, overall size and actual video board LED design all focused on avoiding disruptions to the conduct of a race.

So, just how big is the “Big Board”?  It's bigger than:

* 3 NBA basketball courts,
* 5 average size U.S. homes,
* 2,200 46-inch flat-screen TVs, and
* 320,000 Apple iPhone 5 screens

The software and equipment that will control the Big Board will allow for multiple split-screen presentations of video, images, data and innovative live and recorded programming. Churchill Downs also will add full-1080i fixed and mobile HD cameras and a new audio system to deliver state-of-the-art picture and sound quality to its fans.

“Since 2005 we have invested over $160 million in improving our fans' experience,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “Along with our current $15 million Grandstand Terrace project we are investing over $27 million this year to make Churchill Downs not only the best venue for Thoroughbred racing's biggest events, the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, but one of the premier sports and entertainment venues anywhere in the world.”

“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to work with Churchill Downs to bring true 21st Century video technology to the 140th Kentucky Derby, the longest continuously conducted sporting event in the country,” said Richard Ballard, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Panasonic Eco Solutions North America.

Preliminary design and engineering work are already underway. Installation work will begin in December and completed during the Jan. 1-mid.-March period when the track is closed to training and no horses are stabled on the track's grounds. Current plans are to unveil the Big Board to the public at “Opening Night” of Derby Week on Saturday, April 26, 2014, in a dazzling nighttime display of the Big Board's technological capabilities.

  • Tinky

    I suppose that fand should be oh so grateful that CD will now provide video of horses which have long been obscured when racing down the backstretch, thanks to the structures in the infield.

    Who said that they don’t have the fans best interests in mind?

  • Greg Jones

    Nice, but why not invest some money into the living quarters for the backside workers, the heart and soul of Churchill Downs. Between the millions spent on this and the Mansion, how much has been spent on improving the backside?

    • 4Bellwether666

      They are trying to keep in touch with the rest of the sports world which is good…Thought they had are suppose to have spent some dust on the backside???…Shame on them and the rest of the so called super tracks if they haven’t cleaned their act up back there for the humans and the animals they take care of…ty…

    • Olebobbowers

      Great post, Greg! Reading it took me back to the mid 60’s when I was galloping horses for HoF Trainer Bob Wheeler (it was long before he was in the HoF, but I enjoy referring him as HoF Trainer, as I know how proud he would be to see that!)…anyhow, one of the bigwigs at CD was at our barn, and I heard him tell Bob that he should come to the front side and see the new offices they’d built for him, et al. Bob, God Bless him, without hesitation, stated something very similar to what you just did ^above! I’m sitting here with chill bumps, almost 50 years later, seeing there is still someone out there that cares about the workers. Thanks Greg.

      • Greg Jones

        Thank you.

    • Sal Carcia

      Investing $12 million in improving the customer experience will eventually help everyone on the game.

  • Anton Chigurh

    How about a TV for Fairgrounds?

    • Don Reed

      We gave you that 18″ SONY for Christmas. Pipe down!

      • Anton Chigurh

        It would be better than the empty hole that’s there now!

        • Don Reed

          Obamacare technicians forwarded, by mistake, 19,637 9-inch
          government-surplus cathode-tube TVS, which will be stitched together in time for the debut of the Fairgrounds 2014 Meet.

          “Let The Good Times Be Transmitted!”

          The FG betting machines will also be upgraded, using the refurbished Bletchley Park Enigma-busting computers that were discovered in the same Fairfax VA warehouse last Monday, prior to the OBC rollout.

      • south florida tom

        There’s nothing better than a new cathode ray tube tv. Many Thanks!!!

  • riatea

    Wow, for that they could have had cameras installed in every barn and stall.

  • Don Reed

    So, just how big is the “Big Board”?

    It’s bigger than:

    * 3 NBA basketball courts;

    * 2,200 46-inch flat-screen TVs; and

    * The average ego of the typical Churchill Downs CEO on the first Saturday in May.

    • Tinky

      I believe the first two to be accurate, but the third? C’mon, Don.

      • Don Reed

        Agreed. Went too far. Add in all the vice-presidents.

  • C Hogan

    Worst racetrack in America to set outside and try reading a racing form and betting on race horses. No way you can talk to the person standing next to you about anything because of the loud music. They have all that empty space because they run their players off to the book makers and HRTV. I ain’t drinking none of their $40 a six pack off draft beer.
    If I must go all I need is some EAR PLUGS and a cell phone to bet my bookie. Worst race caller in America along with some rap. Glad We have Keeneland and Kentucky Downs for betting on horse racing.

  • tradesignal

    Have you ever been in a back side bathroom just before the cleaning crew gets there, those of us who use these facilities, need to take better care of what sparce facilities we have. I agree there should be better care and facilities, everyone need to take better care of everything!

  • Help the Fair Grounds

    They will spend 12 mil on a TV but won’t spend money to fix
    the drainage on the turf course at the Fair Grounds and make it safer for the
    horses? Guess it’s all about return on your investment and since they don’t own
    the horses they don’t care about a safe surface.
    The TV at the Fair Grounds broke a few years ago so the covered it with a banner.

  • Ct2346

    I hope that the horses aren’t able to see it. One more thing to distract them.

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