Keeneland announced Aug. 7 that it has contracted with HOK Sport, a global sports architecture firm, to develop a master plan for the current and future use of its facility.
As part of the process, HOK will undertake a review and assessment of Keeneland’s existing facilities and operations. The goal of the project is to enhance the Keeneland experience for racing, sales, and simulcast guests and the community.
“We have charged HOK with two goals,” said Nick Nicholson, president and CEO of Keeneland. “First and foremost, anything we do must be in the best interest of the horse and its safety. The welfare of horse and rider is our top priority. Another will be to preserve the sight lines of the racetrack, and our ability to offer guests the clearest views of the saddling paddock and races.
“Secondly, as we explore ways to grow, we cannot lose sight of Keeneland’s ‘soul,’ or the essence of what makes Keeneland so special. We must protect that ambience, while at the same time enhance our guests’ experience by taking full advantage of all modern technologies. With that in mind, we look to HOK to help us marry innovation and tradition in a way that ensures Keeneland remains the place we all know and love.”
Toward the latter goal, Keeneland will invite the public to offer their thoughts and suggestions, via its website and a public forum, on master plan development. The public forum will be held Aug. 25 at 6 p.m., in the Keeneland Sales Pavilion.
“The citizens of our community, the state, and the Thoroughbred industry have a sense of ownership in Keeneland, and we respect and embrace that,” Nicholson said. “Keeneland is an important part of Central Kentucky’s history and landscape, and we feel all should have a voice in its future.
“I feel we succeeded in applying these same principles to our recent Polytrack renovation--to continually strive to improve Keeneland, but stay true to its heritage,” he added.
Nicholson acknowledged that he is frequently asked about the possibility of Keeneland hosting a Breeders’ Cup World Championship, and that accommodating the event is an ancillary aspect of the master plan project.
“We would be honored to host the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland, and we have asked HOK Sport to build that consideration into their development plans,” he said. “It would be very exciting to have the championship in Central Kentucky, and we would be remiss if we didn’t explore the opportunity. The facility review will provide guidance as to its feasibility.”
HOK Sport is headquartered in Kansas City, Mo. In its 25-year history, the firm has designed a number of high-profile sports venues worldwide. The firm also has done similar work for several prominent Thoroughbred racetracks, such as England’s recently renovated Ascot Racecourse; Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong; and Australia’s Royal Randwick Racecourse.
“Keeneland is one of the most appreciated legends of Thoroughbred horseracing--and we will respect her status as we make plans to modernize the racecourse,” said HOK Sport senior principal Russ Simons. “We fully intend to make the most of our 25-year history and experience in sports facility design to give Keeneland fans the world over not just a renovated racecourse, but an experience worthy of their loyalty.”