Churchill Downs unveils new luxury boxes designed by Wagner-Murray Architects.

Churchill Downs unveils new luxury boxes designed by Wagner-Murray Architects.

Limerick Studios

Own a Piece of the Downs, Churchill Pitching New Luxury Suites

Churchill Downs entered the real estate market this week when it began pitching leases for its 59 luxury suites now under construction.

The 396 to 956 square-foot Jockey Club suites will occupy three floors to the right of the Louisville racetrack's famed Twin Spires, as one faces the grandstand.

"We are confident that the pairing of the Kentucky Derby and Oaks with these premium hospitality venues will create one of the hottest tickets in sports and foster the long-term viability of our flagship facility," said Tom Meeker, Churchill Downs' president and chief executive officer.

The suites hold from 22 to 52 people and sell for $62,000 to $166,000, depending on their location, size, and amenities. Leases are available for three- or five-year terms and are expected to be ready by the fall of 2003. Some suites may be ready as early as next spring.

Sports marketing pioneer Max Muhleman, principal of Muhleman Marketing in Charlotte, N.C., and IMG, a national leader in the marketing of premium sports seating, have helped Churchill Downs price the suites and will help the companyês sales staff pitch them to corporate clients, well-heeled clients, and regional businesses.

"The Jockey Club Suites are a perfect complement for this unique facility and its incredible events," Muhleman said. "A lot of people will want to own this real estate on the first Saturday in May."

The suites' prices fit well within the range of premium seating at other one-time, high profile sporting events and at competing sports venues. For example, a suite at the Indy 500 cost $713-$2,053 per person, a suite to the U.S. Open tennis championship costs $561-$4,800 per person, and a suite at the U.S. Open golf championship costs $2,000-$3,875 per person. Churchill Downês suites will cost $2,800 to $3,600 per person.

For local venues, Keeneland Race Course sells its 22 suites for $17,500 or $2,187 per seat. The University of Louisville gets $1,111 per seat for its suites at Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium and $4,166 per seat at the Freedom Hall arena. Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, home of the NBA Pacers, gets $7,500 to $10,000 per seat for its 71 luxury suites.

The suites will create a substantial new source of revenue for Churchill Downs, which just approved a $95 million major renovation of the racetrack. The suites would generate nearly $4 million a year, if the suites sellout at their maximum advertised price.