07/31/2012 11:27AM

Churchill Downs: $9 million renovation will transform sixth floor into a Southern-style mansion


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Churchill Downs officials on Tuesday revealed details for the new deluxe seating concept that will be built in the sixth-floor space that has served as the Joe Hirsch Media Center and the Gold Room for high-volume horseplayers since the track underwent a massive renovation completed in 2005.

“The Mansion,” as it is being called, will attempt to mimic a lavish southern-style mansion replete with amenities such as a dining room with a gourmet chef, a library, a private bar, and a private elevator, not to mention a balcony that affords a spectacular finish-line view of the racetrack.

“This space will be unlike any other in sports,” Churchill Downs president Kevin Flanery said at a media briefing in the Joe Hirsch Media Center, where he formally introduced plans for the Mansion. He also announced several other renovation plans in conjunction with the Mansion, all at a cost of $9  million.

The new projects are scheduled to begin in the coming days and to be complete in time for the 2013 Kentucky Oaks and Derby next May. Flanery estimated the Mansion will recoup a sizable portion of its cost in the first three years of operation and will seat at least 320 people, with “customized” seating costs that would vary by a number of factors that he declined to specifiy. The seats would cost “in the thousands,” he said. One media outlet reported a range of $9,000 to $12,500 per seat per year, with a minimum three-year commitment.

“We don’t have unlimited space and acreage,” said Flanery. “When we set about doing a project, we ask, ‘How can we best utilize the space that we have?’ ”

Aside from space considerations, Flanery said “great demand for seats, tables, suites, and boxes” was among the factors that led track officials to initiate the changes. He spoke at length about the “new world” that places a premium on entertainment, food, fashion, and service.

Starting with the upcoming fall meet, working media will be relocated to a soon-to-be-renovated building that has no live view of the racetrack and had until recently been the corporate offices of Churchill Downs Inc., which are now located in the east end of Louisville. Credentialed media will be permitted to watch races live from third-floor boxes in the grandstand.

Members of the Gold Room will be relocated to the second-floor Champions room, which also will undergo extensive renovation.

The upper level of the current facility from which the track announcer and racing officials work, including the stewards, will remain unaffected.

Flanery also announced that the Paddock Pavilion, a defunct facility that has served little purpose in recent years, will be razed to create an open gathering space of some 30,000 additional square feet that will better serve the huge crowds on Kentucky Derby and Oaks Days, and other major events. “We need more leisure space in the paddock area,” said Flanery. “We need more space where people can enjoy themselves.”

This will be yet the latest modernization of the 137-year-old facility at Churchill, which underwent major renovations in the mid-1980s and from 2003-05. The track also installed a permanent lights system in 2010. Officials estimated they have invested $150 million in their flagship facility within the last decade.

Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
this just underlines the attitude of racing, its all about the insiders,as for the idiots who still bet "let them eat cake".9 million to make the most exclusive and comfortable part of the track even more exclusive and comfortable while the rest decays,as for protecting its custommers from the crooked trainers and jockeys forget about it,not a penny.geting real testing for dopping,too expensive.
D More than 1 year ago
Yeah low takeouts and who really cares about the takeouts when your looking at 5 and 6 horse fields all meet! As a gambler it is hard to sit through a entire card at a Churchill Downs meet and looking at 4/5 every race followed by three horses under 7/2 and then a couple of longshots who I wouldn't use with free money! Give me large fields or watch my betting dollar stay in my pocket. Between the polycrap they put in at Keeneland and Churchill's small fields it is getting harder and harder to play the KY circuit, simple as that. Anymore if I had to composite a list of races I am playing on a monthly basis in the State of KY its nothing more then some large field maiden races and Turf races which usually draw good size fields. I use to attend races and gamble at least 2 times a week sometimes more and now I attend and go maybe 2 times in a month. I know Churchill Downs doesn't miss me one bit and guess what, I don't miss them either!
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
F the facilities just make an effort to keep the sport honest,kick the crooks out permenantly,throw out jockeys with batteries.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Churchill Downs, Saratoga and Del Mar are the only 3 tracks in the country with over $1,000,000 bet per race. And Churchill run a lot more races than Del Mar and Saratoga. Churchill Downs and Keeneland have the lowest takeouts of any track in America with no bet having a takeout of over 19%. If Churchill is screwing their betters, what are other tracks with takeouts over 20% doing??? Let's see over $100,000,000 bet on the Derby alone with a 19% takeout. That's over $19 million right there.
raymond More than 1 year ago
Will they be serving Kentucky Fried Chicken?
Cornelius More than 1 year ago
Horse bettors are becoming the Suckers of the Betting World of Horse Racing and it seems to me that these racetracks continue to treat their patrons with disdain. Inless someone takes a stand to these high prized Racetrack Executives whose main dedication to this sport is how to skim more revenue and increase their bonuses, racing fans will continue to be abused. Gamble wisely avoid horse racing bets. All this abuse is not worth the effort.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If CD wanted to skim more money from fans they could just raise their takeouts to the level of other tracks instead of having the lowest takeout of any track in America. No bet with a takeout over 19%. Churchill and Keeneland are actually screwing you the least with their low takouts
Cornelius More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately these 9 million dollars of renovations would not be enjoyed by the people who bet those Hundred Million but by an inner circle that demands preferential treatment because they think they are above the status of the betting public. if Vhuchill Downs and its low take-out are so healthy, how come purses were slashed and horses fields for racing were at a low time low. One wonders what those people or racetracks executives who would enjoy the new renovation contribute to horse racing other than collecting their huge salaries? How many race horses do they own amongst their contributions?
Jack Twee More than 1 year ago
You're right that Churchill Downs has some of the lowest takeout overall,but It doesn't mean the takeout is low.It just means you're comparing It to very high takeout. By Law Churchill can't raise the takeout above 19%,they would like too!! Look at Calder,Arlington and Fairgrounds all slot tracks with high takeout. Also,Churchill has one of the highest Pick-5 takeouts at 19%,Calder 12%,Fairgrounds 25% and Arlington 15%.Makes no sense! http://www.horseplayersassociation.org/hanatrackratingsbyoverallscore2012
GQ More than 1 year ago
Amazing, they continue to pour money into the clubhouse. While the first, second and third floor grandstand areas are literally falling down.The rich get ticher. Terrible. George in Naples
PennNatRick More than 1 year ago
Kind of makes you think...Titanic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I go there like 100 times a year literally. I've seen no evidence of anything falling down. Matter of fact I can hear people complaining now if you touch the grandstand, just like they are complaining about this. Something 'old' has to remain.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I know people who will complain about 'loss of tradition' if you so much as replace a garbage can at Churchill. Some stuff needs to be left alone. Nothing is falling down though. That's just not true.
PennNatRick More than 1 year ago
I see the drf media members are pretty upset about it and Paulick is in the mix. I guess it's moving day for the Delta House. #animalhouse
DRFMcGee More than 1 year ago
Which DRF media members are "pretty upset about" this, PNR? Personally, I never really cared for the way the working-media area was set up at CD since 2005 for a variety of reasons. I often watch races in and amongst the patrons, and the Derby itself from a 317 or 318 section with friends and family. As long as I've got a clean, relatively quiet place from which to file my stories, I don't much care where it is. Now you, PNR, report to the stables at 0700 hours . . . and without that pledge pin!!!!
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
If I was a "local Whale" (big bettor) and they told me to pay for a seat, I'd tell them to shove it. Here in Jacksonville, they treat the horse player like low end poop. I'm better off not going locally and just going to Vegas for 4 days a month, it's a comp, good food and they treat horse players (big players) very good. Only cost the air fare.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You should bet Churchill and Keeneland more. They have the lowest takeouts of any track in America. No bet has over a 19% takeout. WPS 16% takeout. 19% on all others. Can't beat it.
Edward More than 1 year ago
What do you work for Churchill? First, the WPS takeout is 16% which is higher than CA, NY or FL major tracks. Since the best way to actually make money betting at the track is WPS that kind of puts a hole in your theory for pros. Yes, they have a lower takeout for the wild exotic bets and pick 6's but that has very little effect on the "cost" of a awager for a bettor since the payouts are so large. So what is your point about the takeout? If anything, we also should acknowledge that historically takeout has been much lower than 16% on WPS. Sixteen percentis what we have had to settle for.
victor More than 1 year ago
Instead of live racing maybe they should just play Gone with the Wind on the big screen.