Churchill Downs Planning Big Renovation

Churchill Downs plans to announce this summer a major renovation project for its historic facility.

Plans have not yet been finalized, in part because of the complexity of implementing major demolition and construction around events such as Breeders' Cup Championship Day and Kentucky Derby week, said John R. Long, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Churchill Downs, Inc.

Churchill Downs opened in 1875 and built its signature twin-spired grandstand 20 years later. The track has undergone an almost continuous series of additions and modifications since then, including the addition of the fourth and fifth floors in the Skye Terrace in the mid-1960s.

As a result of the uncoordinated development, operations sometimes are unnecessarily difficult, especially on the track's busiest days, Long said.

"You find things like (food service) elevators shared with customers," he said.

Long said the renovation will include replacing some wooden structural elements with steel, replacing elevators and other mechanical components and generally improving the physical quality of Churchill Downs.

"Historic areas, obviously, we will preserve," he said. "Look for a more specific announcement in the next few months," Long added.