If you look carefully at Keeneland this fall, you will notice folks practicing how to put on next year's Breeders' Cup World Championships.
For example, in spots normally reserved as Clubhouse parking, there is a double-decker tent, the first of several test run venues. Except, don't call it a tent. It's a Luxury Chalet, with capital letters.
And it is luxurious. And seats there include a catered lunch, full bar and some of the best views of racing anywhere at the track.
And it can all be yours next fall, when the championships come to Keeneland for the first time, for a mere $125,000. But that's for both days, includes food and drinks, and you get to invite 100 of your best friends. The $1,250 per ticket might sound pricey, but there are takers already.
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On the recent first weekend of the Keeneland fall meet, members of the Lexington host committee and others were invited to have a look at the space, like "a model home in a new subdivision," said Vince Gabbert, Keeneland vice president and COO.
Before Bob Elliston, Breeders' Cup executive vice president and COO, could even get to the track on Saturday he had a call from a farm wanting two suites, he said. And Gabbert told him that at least six more sold to businesses clamoring for a suite.
So it's a good thing there will be eight of the chalets.
"I think they're going to have a tremendous experience," Elliston said. "Where you're this close to the racetrack, right on the rail here or upstairs where you can see the entire racetrack, coupled with great food, great surroundings. I think it's going to be an incredible experience for the entire community. I get goosebumps when I start thinking about it, quite frankly."
Chris Gilligan, spokesman for Xerox, was invited to spend the day in the chalet and said his company is considering a Breeders' Cup commitment.
"It was beautiful, it was lavish, it was high-end," Gilligan said. Xerox often uses venues like the Kentucky Derby or U.S. Open to "wow" prospective clients, he said.
"It will be a good venue for entertaining, depending upon the price, of course," he said. "I think people could be blown away with what they will see."
Prices will be in line with what the Breeders' Cup charges at Santa Anita and what has been charged at Churchill Downs in the past, Elliston said.
Large luxury suites won't be the only option for Breeders' Cup 2015. Tickets for individual tables in the suites also will be available if there are any left, according to Breeders' Cup officials. And there will be plenty of other options, down to $25 per car for tailgating or about $40 for general admission.
New schematics at Keeneland show that the track has actually increased the number of tickets and personnel coming up with more ways to give people a great venue, even if they don't necessarily have a great view.
The temporary structures have been reconfigured — adding seats here, easing space there — giving a net gain of about 200 tickets in premium on-track seating. The biggest change might be the chalet near the head of the clubhouse turn, where ticketing looks to be expanded by more than 2,286 seats.
Talks are taking place with Kentucky distillers about creating a special experience for fans at that chalet that might be similar to the Bourbon Lodge that the Kentucky Distillers' Association has sponsored in Louisville at the annual Forecastle music festival, Elliston said.
"It'll probably be lot of hipsters in there ... I think up there in that area will be a great destination," Elliston said.
Closer to Keeneland's home base, the track has inserted two big changes: a members' tent just off the clubhouse lawn, with room for 183, since most members are likely to be squeezed out of their normal posh digs.
The Hill and The Meadow will be ticketed tailgating, Gabbert said, and will have everything typical fans expect and more, at a more reasonable price.
And across the track, on the other side of Rice Road, the Thoroughbred Club will be making room for a party, too. Plans call for adding seating for 1,111 and bar space for 689 people in addition to room in the club's regular dining room.
In front of the regular grandstand box seats, Keeneland plans to erect temporary box seats that will double the track-side box space.
And, next spring, Keeneland will have another test run, probably of the double-decker chalet planned for behind the saddling paddock.
It's all part of efforts to make sure that when the championships — and 50,000 fans — come to see the best Thoroughbreds in the industry, things go like clockwork.
"Part of the test is to give people flavor," Gabbert said. "Also, to test the logistics and operations, to make sure we're prepared for all the things at Breeders' Cup."
They will need to solve a few hiccups: on that first Saturday test run, which was a chilly, windy day, a bartender couldn't make a Keeneland Breeze, the track's signature drink. And the starting gate pulled up right in front of the chalet, blocking the view of the track from the lawn.
Those are the kinds of wrinkles that the track will have time to iron out.
Gabbert and Elliston said they know there will be tremendous interest in tickets, so they are working to accommodate as many hopes — and pocketbooks — as possible.
"We are trying to do something for everybody, and we'll have something that appeals to every taste," Gabbert said. "Whether you're trackside or not, what we want to provide is the experience. People feel like it's going to be a great event, and are excited about it ... but plenty of people doubt what we can pull off. We appreciate that, and are trying to take that and build upon it. That's one of the reasons we're practicing this fall. Trying to work out those bugs."
Tickets for the event might go on sale a little earlier than Breeders' Cup normally releases them.
The target date for ticket sales to begin is March 1, he said.
Keeneland also has been testing the waters on ways to involve the community, such as the Jefferson Street Soiree held in early September. The street party to celebrate local food, craft beer and bourbon was almost too successful for its own good: VisitLex — otherwise known as the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau — told merchants they anticipated about 2,500 people.
"I heard 7,000," Gabbert said. "I think every bit of 5,500 people were there."
Nico Schulz of Blue Stallion Brewing said they opened the tap and just kept pouring.
"We ran out of beer in 90 minutes," Schulz said. "It was incredible."
Likewise, the September Sale Ale that Country Boy Brewing created for Keeneland was a big hit.
It's all "proof that when you provide a good experience, a good venue for what the city has to offer, they will participate," Gabbert said.
For Breeders' Cup 2015, Keeneland is working with the event host committee on concerts and other events downtown, and may seek to set up off-site betting, possibly downtown, as they have done in recent years for the Kentucky Derby at the Kentucky Horse Park.
That could give the crowds a chance to feel the excitement of the races even if they are nowhere near the track, said Kip Cornett, who is chairing the host committee. All of the downtown events are envisioned to be free, he added.
Keeneland also has requested an extra day of racing to help the community ramp up: the traditional Fall Meet will end on Saturday before Breeders' Cup 2015, then the track will have racing on Thursday to give locals a special day of racing.
And that will give track workers one last day to work out those kinks.