Next year’s Kentucky Derby will offer improved spaces for horse owners and big bettors to watch the action and the races.
Churchill Downs on Tuesday announced $16 million in renovations to the second floor of the Clubhouse, typically where owners and their guests eat, bet and drown their sorrows.
The reconstruction will begin after the fall meet ends on Nov. 27 and is expected to be completed before the 2017 spring meet opens April 29. The Kentucky Oaks will be May 5 and the Kentucky Derby will be May 6.
The project involves 95,000-square feet and will include a new Twin Spires Club Elite Gold Room for VIP bettors next to a bigger Champions Bar. Both will have adjoining covered balconies with table seating overlooking the paddock.
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Also new: the Aristides Lounge, in a formerly an unfinished space that Churchill sometimes used for events and where the food court was. The lounge will have table seating and a wall of flat-screen TVs. Nearby will be The Loft at Aristides Lounge, which will allow for semi-private dining in sectional rooms with half-walls.
The 13,000 guests that use these spaces typically include horse owners, trainers, VIP bettors and those who have purchased Derby Experiences ticket packages, according to Churchill Downs.
None of this seating is available for the general public to purchase on Oaks and Derby days but the public still can buy food from the vendors, who will be repositioned.
The upgrades to the Clubhouse spaces also will include more food and beverage offerings, more TVs, more restrooms and more betting windows.
What this seating area doesn’t have is live views of the track. Or, in the case of the Aristides Lounge, of the paddock.
“Churchill Downs places the highest emphasis on customer service, and we’re listening to what our guest have told us,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack, in the release. “We believe these new and upgraded amenities will significantly add to the overall experience for our Clubhouse guests and will result in a more enjoyable experience for a day at the races.”
This is the latest in a series of ongoing investments to the grandstand and other customer spaces by Churchill Downs. The track completed $210 million in renovations since 2005. In 2015, Churchill debuted $4.2 million in owners’ boxes for the Oaks and Derby; in 2016, Churchill showed off an $18 million remodel of the third and fourth floors of the clubhouse; in 2014, the track added the gigantic big-screen television for $13.9 million, and grandstand terrace and rooftop garden at the top of the stretch for $19.2 million. In 2013, Churchill unveiled The Mansion, an exclusive space for ultra high-rollers, for $4.6 million.