Churchill Downs will honor retiring longtime Daily Racing Form
executive columnist Joe Hirsch by naming its new media facility in his honor.
"The Joe Hirsch Media Center" will honor Hirsch's contributions to the Kentucky Derby and his many accomplishments in a career in which he became America's foremost authority on Thoroughbred racing. That career started in 1954 when Hirsch took a job with the Form's sister publication, The Morning Telegraph
. He covered his first Kentucky Derby two years later.
Hirsch, 74, was named executive columnist for the racing industry's daily newspaper in 1974 and is scheduled to retire following the publication of a final column on Nov. 29.
A retirement dinner for Hirsch is being held in New York City tonight.
The new media facility, which is being created as part of the track's ongoing $121 million renovation, will be located on the sixth floor above the track's finish line in the rebuilt Clubhouse.
"The Joe Hirsch Media Center" will be the focus of activity for print and electronic journalists who travel to Churchill Downs to cover the Kentucky Derby.
The renovation project is scheduled for completion in early 2005 and "The Joe Hirsch Media Center" will welcome journalists for the first time for that year's 131st running of the Kentucky Derby. It will include a special wall of photographs and other historic items that will salute Hirsch's career and other aspects of Kentucky Derby media coverage through the years.
"There are few people in the history of the Kentucky Derby that have provided more valuable service to America's greatest race and the racing industry than Joe Hirsch," said Thomas H. Meeker, president and chief executive officer of Churchill Downs Inc. "His friendship and counsel were invaluable to me when I became president of Churchill Downs in 1984 and I continue to hold Joe's wisdom and his contributions to the Derby and the entire industry in the highest regard. The naming of Churchill Downs' new media center in Joe's honor is a most fitting tribute as it symbolizes not only our gratitude for his impact on the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs, but also recognizes Joe's giant influence on all of the print and electronic journalists that cover our great race and our sport."
"The Joe Hirsch Media Center" will replace the track's old press box, which was the largest media facility at an American racetrack and was demolished in July in the razing of a large section of the Clubhouse for the renovation project. The old press box had been named in honor of former Churchill Downs President Wathen Knebelkamp at the suggestion of the National Turf Writers Association following the completion of that facility in 1966.
Along with working media members, "The Joe Hirsch Media Center" will also include working space for the Churchill Downs publicity staff, stewards, placing judges, track announcer, and the photo finish and teletimer operator. The media center will occupy approximately 11,000 square feet, which includes interior space of 9,500 square feet and a 1,500 square foot exterior balcony. There will be seating and workspace for 170 people inside the facility, an increase of approximately 30 from the old Press Box, and viewing/seating space for another 170 people on the terraced balcony.