The Kentucky Derby is the iconic horse race of the US horse racing calendar but some owners weren’t impressed with the quality of their accommodations last year. In response, Churchill Downs is upgrading the owners’ seating area.
While track officials denied that the planned renovations were a direct response to owner criticisms you can connect the dots. Owners of horses in both the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks weren’t pleased about the ease of access to the owners’ seats. They also didn’t think they were given the ‘VIP treatment’ that they deserve. The result of their griping is today’s announcement–a $4.2 million improvement project on the seating area immediately beneath the track’s famous twin spires.
The plan is to add additional seating for owners as well as a grass area in front that will be called the ‘Courtyard’. They’ll add 600 seats for the Kentucky Derby in the new grassy area but the rest of the year they plan to use it as a ‘park-like setting’ similar to ones that have become popular in Major League Baseball over the past decade.
Track President Kevin Flannery had the following to say in a statement released by Churchill Downs: “There are many wonderful seating options at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks but these new Winner’s Circle Suites are where anyone who has ever owned or dreamed of owning a racehorse wants to be. We’re thrilled to make this investment and truly thank our Derby and Oaks owners by creating an exclusive area that will provide more complimentary tickets, food and beverage and other extraordinary amenities than ever before.”
The improvements for the owners will mean displacement of 100 or so box holders immediately adjacent. According to the track, the plan is to have them in individually over the next few days to work out an acceptable replacement. Churchill Downs also has a significant upside in the renovation as the owners area is shown on television often before and during the race. An impressive owners area reflects well on the entire track as well as providing a good area to sell ads and sponsorship.