Churchill Downs set for $300m renovation project

Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby US horse-racing event, has announced a $300m (£232m/€269m) investment project that will result in a new 156-room hotel and new permanent covered stadium seating for 4,700 spectators.

The wide-ranging plans, which are pending final approval of a Kentucky Tourism Development Incentive Act, also include an historical racing machine (HRM) facility and a renovation of the Millionaires Row space.

If the plans are approved it is hoped work can begin in December and be finished by the end of the 2021. The development is designed to transform the first turn of Churchill Downs and deliver “never-before imagined” experiences.

The seven-storey hotel will feature trackside suites with private balconies offering panoramic views of the entire track. Non-track-facing rooms will provide access to a second-floor party deck from which to watch racing. The hotel will also feature a penthouse banquet room, as well as 27,000-square-foot ballroom and meeting rooms.

Churchill Downs Racetrack president Kevin Flanery said: “Derby Week guests can wake up to a sunrise view as horses breeze around the track and then have their Kentucky Derby in their suite.

“We took exceptional consideration with the design approach to this project to ensure that the addition will seamlessly enhance and complement the historic nature and iconic aesthetic of Churchill Downs. Our goal is to create a one-of-a-kind venue not just for Derby week, but for the public benefit of our community and visitors of Louisville to enjoy throughout the year.”

Also included in the hotel is a 900-machine HRM gaming floor, complete with sports bar, VIP lounge and multiple year-round dining venues. The gaming floor will be open to guests throughout the year and during Derby Week it will be packaged with hospitality access for 3,400 guests.

The 4,700 new permanent seats will replace the 3,300-seat temporary grandstands currently located on-site. Altogether, the project will provide around 5,500 new reserved seating options for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, with 6,700 additional existing customers to have access to upgraded amenities.

Around 600 jobs are set to be created during the construction phase, with approximately 300 permanent jobs to be on offer once work is complete.

Churchill Downs received preliminary approval for Tourism Development Act incentives that will allow the project to move forward and hopes to receive final approval from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority next month.

The sixth-floor Millionaires Row space will benefit from an $11m renovation, which the racetrack said would create a “finely-curated culinary experience” for guests at next year’s  Kentucky Derby. Work on Millionaires Row would begin following Churchill Downs’ Fall Meet in December and be ready in time for next May’s Derby.

Image: Churchill Downs