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Churchill to upgrade infield for Derby

The infield at the Kentucky Derby is being upgraded.

Churchill Downs announced next year's Derby and Oaks days will feature "an exclusive new infield experience called the 'Infield Club,' allowing fans the opportunity to enjoy the exuberant party atmosphere of the infield with an upgraded twist."

Churchill's infield, the open space in the center of the racetrack, has long been a party free-for-all, although in recent years the track has set aside family friendly areas where, at least in theory, there is little drinking, only occasional semi-nudity and a bit less of a "mosh pit" atmosphere.

And during Churchill's multiyear construction, some posh patrons were put in the infield, with their own half of the under-track tunnel to go through without rubbing silk-suited elbows with the masses.

Although infield admission is still considered unlimited, Churchill has gradually eroded the open infield space, setting aside more prime track-side real estate for pricey suites and corporate boxes.

But next year, the track will set up a sports bar in the middle of the infield, with private betting windows and machines, sports-bar style food, a disc jockey, some shaded seating, and — perhaps most coveted of all — "upgraded restroom facilities."

All for only $150 a person on Derby Day, $50 on Oaks Day or $175 for both.

Advance ticket orders can be placed beginning Thursday at the track or online at Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Prices on remaining tickets might go up after Dec. 31, the track said.

Regular general admission prices, which last week were frozen, are $40 on Derby Day and $25 on Oaks Day, with children younger than 12 admitted free with an adult.