Churchill Ceremony to Mark Project's Progress

Churchill Downs will mark the progress of its sweeping $121 million renovation next week when it holds a special "Topping Off" ceremony. The track has asked its fans to leave their imprint on the renovated facility by adding their signatures to a steel beam that will be placed at its highest point.

A ceremony for track employees and construction teams to mark the "Topping Off" of the renovated Clubhouse, the focus of the $95 million second phase of the project, will be held at the track next week. A 40-foot white beam which will bear the signatures of racing fans, construction crews, jockeys, horsemen, track officials and local dignitaries will be placed during the ceremony. The names will be collected over the final three days of the track's 27-day fall meet. The meet ends with a 12-race program on Saturday.

"The 'Topping Off' ceremony marks a significant milestone in a project that is not only important to Churchill Downs, but to our entire community and region," said Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs. "This ceremony is a tradition in major construction projects around the world, and in the case of Churchill Downs, it will mark a milestone in the rebirth of a large section of a signature institution in our state and region. We could not have undertaken this renovation without the support of patrons, horsemen, government leaders and other supporters and we hope that all will take the opportunity to sign our special beam and become a permanent part of the renovated Churchill Downs."

The signed beam will carry a Christmas tree, an American flag and a set of shoes worn by Sackatoga Stable's 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide when a massive 250-ton crane lifts it to the highest point of the new Clubhouse. Crews from Havens Steel of Kansas City, Mo., the structural steel contractor for Louisville-based construction manager Sullivan & Cozart, will set the beam in its permanent place.

The second phase of the $121 million Churchill Downs renovation will be completed in early 2005. The $26 million first phase of the project, which included the construction the three new floors of Jockey Club Suites, was completed in early September.