When you think of iconic sports venues, you think of Fenway Park or Wrigley Field for baseball, Augusta National for golf, or the Rose Bowl for football. Up there with all of those is Churchill Downs, which will host Kentucky Derby 149 this Saturday.
This week starts the beginning of the Louisville track’s spring meet, and Churchill Downs will welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors over the week. The largest crowds will arrive Friday for the Kentucky Oaks and Saturday for the Derby.
BetKentucky takes a breather from Kentucky sports betting to bring you some new amenities Churchill Downs has awaiting visitors.
Churchill Downs Adds Seating & Track-Level Suites
This year, Churchill Downs has opened a new section of permanent seats and track-level suites along the track’s first turn on the west side of the property.
Ryan Jordan, Churchill Downs Inc.’s senior vice president for real estate development, told BetKentucky.com that the company studied how the Dallas Cowboys implemented their field-level suites in planning for the $90 million project.
“That was an area that for years had been temporary infrastructure,” he said. “We brought in tents and bleachers and kind of created a product. But by making that portion of it permanent, there are more comfortable seats, there are more generous aisleways, there are spacious concourses.”
The new section stands out because the 5,300 outdoor seats are covered and are stadium-style. Underneath is a 50,000-square-foot indoor venue that will rival Churchill’s Millionaire’s Row and other suite areas. Those patrons can walk out and watch the races unfold along the rail with a great view of the horses coming down the stretch.
It’s all about creating experiences for people who see the Derby or a trip to Churchill as a bucket list event, Jordan said.
“When the 20 horses make their way from the backside around to the paddock, these guests get to walk out, be close to that and take in that great experience and the emotional environment that’s created,” he added. “And really, we think that enhances and elevates the experience.”
There's no doubt that all of the best Kentucky sportsbook apps will be all over the Kentucky Derby when they launch.
Even More To Come For 150th Kentucky Derby
There’s other work that’s still in progress at the track, including a new $200 million paddock. That is scheduled to debut next year when Churchill Downs celebrates the 150th running of the Derby, the oldest continuously held major sporting event in the country.
Up now is a temporary paddock that the 20 Derby horses – and other horses racing during the meet – will use. But by next year, the new jewel of the track will be in that same spot.
With the Twin Spires in the background, the new paddock will include 3,600 new seats for the track across three levels. There will also be a new standing-room-only area that will be tiered and accommodate about 3,200 more patrons.
“Then, there are about 3,800 other seats that will have their experience improved because of more amenities, better amenities, more bars, concession stands, restrooms, and wagering windows. All the things that people need throughout the day,” Jordan explains. “People that are in that area are going to have their experience improved.”
There’s another new amenity that people are also looking forward to Churchill Downs opening. That’s the retail sportsbook it will be able to host thanks to the sports betting law the General Assembly passed at the end of this year’s legislative session.
Churchill and the state’s eight other tracks can’t apply for licenses yet, but planning is already underway.
“Given the timing of all of this and executing on the Kentucky Derby, we’ve started to look at ideas,” Jordan said. “We’ve got a few great locations that we think would be the best spot, but we haven’t officially nailed that down yet. So, more to come on the specific location at the racetrack. Location or locations, it’s a big place and lots of opportunity to find a good spot.”
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