Fast paceChurchill Downs renovation does little to slow the Kentucky Derby Long-time viewers of the Kentucky Derby may have noticed something slightly amiss when Smarty Jones streaked down the stretch to win last month's Run for the Roses. There was nothing wrong with their TV sets-an ongoing $121 million renovation is changing the look of Churchill Downs, the venerable Louisville, Ky.-based track best known for its annual running of the fastest two minutes in sports.
The construction project began in 2002 with the first phase, a $26 million project that created three floors of luxury Jockey Club suites, which housed about 2,400 people on Derby day. The $95 million phase two of the project began last July with the demolition of a large part of the clubhouse. Construction of the new building is ongoing, and three of its six floors were open during the race.
The project did displace about 1,000 VIPs from "Millionaires' Row;" they and about 2,500 others were entertained on race day at a 77,000 square foot temporary structure in the infield dubbed "hospitality village."
The entire project was designed to take the Derby and Churchill Downs into the future. One of the key goals is to make the track a year-round facility, complete with plenty of convention and meeting space with all necessary support services. Churchill's Louisville simulcast operation, currently headquartered in another location, will be moved to the track after construction is completed next year. Track officials also hope to bring in new fans, or fans that haven't been to the track in a while.
"The human investment is just as important as the bricks and mortar," said Churchill Spokesman John Asher. "When people come out and see the new Churchill Downs, whether it's this spring when it's still a work in progress, or next spring when it is finished, what we'll have to do is treat them as they want to be treated. [We will] give them all the amenities you could expect at any other entertainment facility in the region, and make them want to come back again and again."