Another Churchill Project: Marketing the New Suites

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The fall meet at Churchill Downs may not begin until Oct. 26, but track officials having been wooing prospective occupants for the recently completed fifth- and sixth-floors of the new Jockey Club suites, which officially opened Sept. 8.

Catherine Miller Delaney, director of group marketing and sales for Churchill Downs Inc., said nearly 1,600 invitations were mailed out for an open house mainly to Turf Club members and season boxholders. Each day, nearly 100 people have toured the luxury suites and feasted on the foods and beverages that are available to suite patrons.

Prior to Sept. 8, only the 23 fourth-floor suites were available for leasing. However, this fall will mark the opening of all 64 suites, including the Triple Crown room, which can accommodate up to 400 people for a sit-down dinner.
In addition to daily rental suites, there are also two state-of-the-art meeting rooms.

During a recent open house, Louisville, Ky., businessman James Jenkins said he was interested in possibly booking one of the meeting rooms this winter. Normally, when he chooses a meeting site, Jenkins pays a lot of attention to size. He needs a space that can comfortably hold 40 people.

"But we also try to find a place that's interesting," he said. "Most of the attendees will be local, but some will come from out of state. This is an interesting thing for our partners to see, and gives them another reason to come out."

Indeed, from the Jockey Club balcony, guests have a bird's eye view of the famed Twin Spires, racetrack, and winner's circle.

Doug Temple, an alumni member of the fraternity Sigma Chi, sampled assorted desserts with several "brothers" and discussed using the facility to host an upcoming black-tie event. The group will celebrate its own version of the Triple Crown in February with the 100th anniversary of the alumni chapter, 15th anniversary of the installation of the undergraduate chapter, and annual "brother's day" which is the fraternity's birthday.

Prices for the luxury suites vary according to day of the week, size, and amenities. Delaney said when designing price packages, Churchill Downs took into consideration what hotels and other venues in the area charge.

"We're very competitive," she said. "And this is an option people didn't have before."

While it's true the fourth-floor suites for Kentucky Derby weekend are not available, Delaney said many suites are open for the fall meet, including Thanksgiving Day. The Jockey Club luxury suites are the first-phase of the two-phase $121-million renovation project scheduled to wrap up by 2005.