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Churchill Downs unveils wide-ranging renovation project

Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby US horse-racing event, has announced three major multi-year transformation projects as part of plans to enhance the fan experience at the venue.

Plans include the debut of a new project each year over the next three years. The first project will be the Homestretch Club for the 2022 Kentucky Derby, with the Turn 1 Experience scheduled for completion in time for the 2023 event and a paddock area redesign set to be finished by 2024.

The Homestretch Club project will cost $45m (£32m/€38m) and will centre on renovating and updating the grandstand area adjacent to the Twin Spires along Churchill Downs’ homestretch. The current outdoor bleacher seating next to the Winner’s Circle Suites and below the Jockey Club Suites will be converted into three unique seating options with all-inclusive amenities.

Churchill Downs said the new seats will provide ideal views of the starting gate, a superior vantage of the track’s Big Board and a bird’s eye view of the homestretch. Guests in the Homestretch Club will have access to 18,600 square feet of interior premium hospitality space in the first-floor concourse area. The space will be complemented by a grand staircase and a 100-foot feature bar.

A total of 30 trackside lounges will be included in the Homestretch Club, along with 66 terraced dining tables, 2,610 stadium club seats and five private VIP hospitality lounges. The project will provide for 3,250 all-inclusive seats and is scheduled for completion in time for next year’s Kentucky Derby on May 7, 2022.

Meanwhile, the Turn 1 Experience will introduce permanent all-inclusive stadium seats to Churchill Downs in a unique location with exclusive views of the Kentucky Derby walkover and the first turn framed by the Twin Spires. The current 3,400 temporary Oaks and Derby seats will be upgraded and expanded to 5,100 all-inclusive permanent stadium seats with significantly improved amenities.

A climate-controlled hospitality venue below the new stadium seats will also serve as premium seating for up to 2,000 guests who will have access to an adjacent trackside reserved viewing terrace. The Turn 1 Experience will include 5,100 covered seats and two concourses to allow for better guest circulation.

The Turn 1 Experience will cost $90m and is set to be completed in time for the 149th Kentucky Derby in 2023.

The redesign of the paddock area is currently in the early design stage. It is hoped the project will transform the space in a manner that will “enhance the experience for nearly every guest”. As well as new and innovative seating and experiences, the redesign will reduce congestion by improving the flow of guests through the paddock and plaza areas.

More details of the paddock area redesign will be shared in the coming months but it is hoped this project will be completed in time for the 150th Kentucky Derby in 2024.

Mike Anderson, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack, said: “We have so much to anticipate as we look toward the 150th Kentucky Derby in 2024. We’ve listened to our customers’ feedback over the years and the response to those demands can be seen in these upcoming capital projects. The design of each will blend 147 years of tradition with an updated atmosphere that celebrates our storied past and ushers in a spectacular future for Churchill Downs.”

In October 2019, Churchill Downs announced a $300m investment project that centred on a new 156-room hotel and new permanent covered stadium seating for 4,700 spectators, but these plans were dropped in April.

Images: Churchill Downs