The board of directors of Churchill Downs Incorporated recently approved $95 million to fund the second phase of a massive construction project to renovate Churchill Downs racetrack, the company’s 128-year-old flagship facility.
Phase II of the company’s "Master Plan" will rebuild parts of the historic oval’s clubhouse area, which will significantly improve the racetrack’s operational efficiency, customer experience and year-round use. The renovated clubhouse will feature numerous changes, including:
o At least one dozen, sixth-floor luxury suites;
o Expanded Turf Club facilities;
o New Millionaires’ Row and Skye Terrace;
o Premium third-floor indoor and outdoor box seating;
o New dining and entertainment areas, including a food court and two lounges (smoking and non-smoking);
o Integrated simulcasting-wagering areas throughout the rebuilt facility;
o New elevators and escalators;
o Expanded restroom facilities;
o Gold Room for Twin Spires Club members;
o New press box and media facilities; and
o Centralized kitchen and food-storage facilities.
Phase II construction will begin in July of 2003 and is scheduled for completion in 2005. The ongoing, $26-million Phase I of the Master Plan -- begun in December 2001 and slated for completion in the fall of 2003 -- will renovate the historic Jockey Club, including the venerable Twin Spires, and add 59 luxury suites, a ballroom, new meeting rooms and kitchen facilities above the racetrack’s grandstand.
Phases I and II combined will cost an estimated $121 million and add nearly 404,000 sq. ft. of new space, more than half of which will be devoted to new seating, hospitality venues and premium accommodations. Both phases of the Master Plan will increase Churchill Downs’ permanent seating capacity by 2,800, thereby allowing the racetrack to accommodate additional patrons on major race days, such as the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.
"We are making a significant capital investment in Churchill Downs, due to the importance of the Kentucky Derby to our company, our community and the horse racing industry in the Commonwealth and throughout the country," said Carl F. Pollard, chairman of CDI’s board of directors. "The Derby serves as a tremendous economic driver for our state and region and stimulates $217 million in annual economic impact. As North America’s marquee racing events, the Derby and Oaks also draw national attention to Kentucky and its signature horse industry and bring racing into the homes of casual sports fans throughout the country. The Master Plan renovation will create a superb showplace for these grand sporting events.
"Additionally, this investment will create a first-class facility that we will use to improve service to our customers year-round and offer the kind of amenities that will allow Churchill Downs to compete with the newer, modern sports and entertainment facilities throughout the region," Pollard continued. "This impressive renovation will ensure that Churchill Downs and its key racing assets, the Derby and Oaks, continue to grow and thrive."
CDI President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Meeker hailed the board’s decision as one that was made with consideration of current economic conditions and a keen view for the company’s long-term growth. "The Master Plan protects and preserves the Company’s signature racing facility and underscores our commitment to the community in spite of the growing competitive challenges we face in the Kentucky racing industry.
"In the year since the board of directors endorsed Phase II in concept, we have refined our design plans in order to ’right-size’ the remodeled clubhouse facility. In the process, we were able to eliminate approximately $6 million in estimated Phase II costs. This investment -- the most significant in the racetrack’s history -- is a wise use of our capital resources, will ensure the long-term viability of one of horse racing’s greatest treasures and, when completed, will contribute positively to the Company’s bottom line."
A news conference that detailed Phase II design elements, floor plans and construction timetable was held on Friday, Sept. 27, in the company’s second-floor board room.
Churchill Downs Inc., headquartered in Louisville, KY., owns and operates world-renowned horse racing venues throughout the United States. The company’s racetracks in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky host 112 graded-stakes events and many of North America’s most prestigious races, including the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, Hollywood Gold Cup and Arlington Million. CDI also owns off-track betting facilities and has interests in various television production, telecommunications and racing services companies that support CDI’s network of simulcasting and racing operations.