08/07/2008 11:00PM

Keeneland hires architects

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The Keeneland Association has hired an architectural firm to evaluate its existing facilities and develop plans for a possible renovation, the company announced on Thursday.

The architectural firm, HOK Sport, recently developed the master plan for a $400 million renovation of Ascot Racecourse in England. That project was the most high-profile renovation of a racetrack since Arlington Racecourse was rebuilt outside of Chicago in 1989.

Nick Nicholson, the president of Keeneland, said on Friday that Keeneland has not committed to a major renovation project, and that HOK has been asked to evaluate the layout of the existing track and its facilities so that Keeneland could consider options for the property. The report is expected to be completed by the end of the year, Nicholson said.

"We're not going to change our essence, our ambience," Nicholson said. "But they've been asked whether or not there are changes we can make to improve our character. We want to be here for the next generation, and we want to plan for the future."

Architecturally, Keeneland is one of the most highly regarded racetracks in the U.S. Its grandstand, which has a stone facade, was originally built in 1935 and was renovated in 1950, 1953, 1976, 1984, and 1998.

Nicholson also said that HOK has been asked to explore any changes that might be necessary to host the Breeders' Cup, the annual two-day racing event. Keeneland has not seriously pursued becoming a host track for the event because of the small size of its grandstand, which has permanent seating for approximately 8,500 people.