04/26/2016 12:04PM

Churchill unveils $18 million in renovations

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Barbara D. Livingston
The Churchill Downs Turf Club (above) is among the areas of the track that have been renovated.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Churchill Downs officials unveiled the latest renovation to their flagship facility when some $18 million in upgrades were presented Tuesday to the media.

The project includes a new Turf Club, Stakes Room, balconies, and box-seating areas that oversee the finish line from the third and fourth floors of the clubhouse. Construction began after the 2015 fall meet, and finishing touches were still being applied this week in time for the opening of the 2016 spring meet Saturday night, with the Kentucky Oaks and Derby set for the following weekend.

The completely redesigned areas come with major customer-service improvements and decorative touches that reflect this track’s rich traditions.

“We’re really trying to celebrate the history of horse racing and Churchill Downs,” Kevin Flanery, Churchill racetrack president, said during a one-hour tour.

All told, the enhancement covers 82,000 square feet and provides a number of features, including murals, photographs, artworks, and improved lighting. The new Turf Club entrance is adorned with enlarged photos of celebrities who have attended the Derby, from Babe Ruth and Lord Derby himself to Bob Hope, Steven Spielberg, and Michael Jordan.

Seating in these new premium areas will increase by 41 percent, from 1,886 to 2,660, while total reserved seating increases from 57,880 to 58,654. Total attendance for the 2015 Kentucky Derby was a record 170,513.

These improvements are just the latest at a track founded in 1875. The most sweeping renovation in recent times cost $121 million and was completed in time for the 2005 Derby. Churchill officials report another $70 million has been spent on capital projects in the last six years alone.