A planned new venue at Churchill Downs
will replace the area that has largely served as the track's media center since 2005, it was announced July 31.
The Mansion at Churchill Downs, which will be open for the 2013 renewals of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), highlights $9 million in planned renovations at the Louisville oval.
In a release, Churchill called The Mansion "a spectacular new venue that will meld the legendary past of the historic track with an exciting future to provide a lavish ambience, panoramic views and unprecedented levels of personalized service, elegance and excitement."
It is the largest of four projects that will be underway at the track in the coming months.
Accompanying projects include a new Media Center to serve print, digital and broadcast journalists and the photographers and videographers who cover the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and other on-track events; the razing of the Paddock Pavilion to create an open gathering space for patrons of the Derby, Oaks, "Downs After Dark" racing and business and social events throughout the year; and the relocation and expansion of the track's Gold Room, which serves VIP members of its Twin Spires Club's TSC Elite wagering rewards program.
The Media Center and the new gathering space adjacent to the paddock are scheduled to be completed prior to Churchill Downs' Oct. 28-Nov. 25 fall meet, and the expanded Gold Room is set to open in August. The Mansion at Churchill Downs will be completed prior to the 2013 Spring Meet and its 139th runnings of the May 3 Kentucky Oaks and the May 4 Kentucky Derby.
"We've been hinting at details of The Mansion and those mentions have generated considerable buzz in our community and the racing and sports entertainment industries, so it's good to provide some enticing details of a marvelous venue that will take the Kentucky Derby experience to an extraordinary new level," said Kevin Flanery, track president of Churchill Downs. "Few events in the world can offer the experiences provided by the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, which combine entertainment, fashion, celebrity, food and fun with the excitement generated by the world-class races that are their respective centerpieces. The sensations experienced by our guests in The Mansion will be unlike any offered in our 138-year history."
The $9 million in spending on the four projects brings total investment over the past decade in facilities by Churchill Downs to more than $150 million. The investment total also includes the sweeping renovation of the track's Clubhouse and Grandstand, which was completed in 2005 with a final price tag of $122.4 million, and the purchase and installation of a permanent lighting system for the main track and turf course, a $4 million project completed in 2010.
"The four projects getting underway this summer at Churchill Downs are the latest steps in an ongoing effort to improve and enhance both the facilities and the customer experience at Churchill Downs," Flanery said. "The more than $150 million in spending on facilities over the past decade at Churchill Downs has been targeted toward that goal and represents a significant investment in our city, state, and region. We will continue those efforts to ensure that the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and their home track remain major economic engines for our region for decades to come."
According to a release, patrons will be delivered to The Mansion at Churchill Downs via private elevator, and its doors will open onto a venue that will evoke the feel and flow of a celebration at a stately home. Guests will stroll onto a covered outdoor terrace against the up-close backdrop of the Twin Spires, "the symbolic heart and soul of Churchill Downs and the Derby since their introduction in 1895," the release said.
The Mansion, with seating and exclusive entertainment opportunities for more than 320 guests, will offer grand settings in its dining room, living room, library, parlor and veranda, along with more intimate gathering spaces in its foyer and bar. Guests will also have access to a private wine cellar, and personal concierge service.
Like other premium seating areas at Churchill Downs, The Mansion will be an invitation-only venue for both the Derby and Oaks. Churchill Downs is contacting potential patrons of The Mansion with details of the luxurious amenities and extraordinary personalized service the new location will provide.
The new Media Center will be located near Churchill Downs' Gate 1 entrance and paddock in a building that has housed the track's General Offices. Its first floor will be transformed into an open facility outfitted with comfortable media work stations, multiple large screen televisions, enhanced Wi-Fi and other technology for digital coverage of major races and events, and food service and bar facilities. The Media Center will feature a dedicated area for press conferences, and several third-floor boxes have been set aside for viewing of the Derby, Oaks and other races by credentialed media representatives.
Offices currently located in the new Media Center site are relocating to the building's second floor, which formerly housed offices of Churchill Downs' parent firm, Churchill Downs Incorporated. The corporate offices were recently moved to CDI's new headquarters at 600 N. Hurstbourne Lane.
The new Gold Room for Churchill Downs VIP players is located on the second floor of the Clubhouse in a space that had previously been utilized as the Champions Lounge. Previously located on the sixth floor of the Clubhouse, the new Gold Room is a larger facility with additional seating. The facility has been outfitted with new large-screen televisions, food and bar service and a terrific vantage point for the viewing of pre-race activity in the Paddock during the track's spring and fall Meet. The new Gold Room will open in early August.