Churchill Downs Gets Tax Break for Renovation

From the Associated Press

Churchill Downs would get a 30-year tax break under a new agreement with the city that will help the racetrack finance the second phase of a $130 million renovation.

The deal would essentially remove Churchill Downs from property tax rolls so that the track won't make payments to the city, county and state but would make annual payments to the Jefferson County Board of Education, amounting to about $250,000 a year, Mayor Dave Armstrong said.

The city would lease the property back to Churchill Downs for $1 a year. Churchill Downs would hold the city free of any liability and damages that might arise from ownership of the track and guarantee that it assumes all financial risk.

The move would save the track about $250,000 a year, or $7.5 million over the 30 years, said Mike Miller, the track's corporate senior vice president of finance.

Armstrong said it's a good deal for the city because it enables the track to push ahead with a project needed to remain competitive. The renovation began less than two days after this year's Kentucky Derby. It's scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2004 fall meet.

The $100 million second phase calls for 12 additional corporate suites; a satellite wagering facility seating 1,700; new track lighting for night racing; a new Eclipse Room; upgraded dining facilities; a new Turf Club; a new section of premium box seats; a new Gate 10 entryway; a new press box; and a sports bar and lounge.

Earlier this month, aldermen approved a measure making the track a special taxing district. As part of that ordinance, the city and state can provide the track with up to 80 percent of new revenue -- from sales and occupational taxes -- generated by the planned expansion.

Miller estimated the track may get up to $150,000 a year from the special tax district.