Plans for a $37 million capital project that will deliver more than 1,800 new seats in time for Kentucky Derby day 2018 through the addition of new luxury suites, interior dining tables and third-floor Grandstand seats were announced Nov. 17 by Churchill Downs.
The Starting Gate Suites capital project will encompass 77,250 square feet of new space on the north end of Churchill Downs' 147-acre facility. The structure, which will feature three floors of individual suites along with dining and event space, will be erected adjacent to the Jockey Club Suites, which opened in 2003.
The new luxury suites, which will feature indoor lounge seating with a bar and a private tiered balcony that overlooks the start of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) at the top of the homestretch, will host 1,140 ticketed guests. Up to new 36 individual suites will be able to accommodate groups of various sizes.
Churchill Downs has 97 existing permanent suites for corporate entertainment or small celebrations with family and friends: 15 Finish Line Suites, 62 Jockey Club Suites and 20 Winner's Circle Suites.
"The Starting Gate Suites project is our next step in the company's ongoing efforts to improve and enhance the facilities and the customer experience at Churchill Downs," said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack. "The demand for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks tickets remains extraordinary with the number of reserved seating requests vastly exceeding our available inventory on an annual basis. This sweeping new addition will be a terrific benefit to our facility on many levels."
Each of the three levels in the new Starting Gate Suites will feature event space with 24 eight-top tables for interior dining for a total of 576 seats. The project also will include the construction of 110 new third-floor Grandstand seats.
Foundation work on the construction of the Starting Gates Suites will begin in January and cease prior to the start of the 2017 Spring Meet, which opens April 29, so that it does not affect operations during Kentucky Derby week. Steel will be erected immediately after the Kentucky Derby is run for the 143rd consecutive year May 6.
The Starting Gate Suites project will be complete prior to the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
The upgrades are part of a series of recent improvements made by Churchill Downs, including an $18 million project to modernize the Turf Club and several other premium areas which was completed in advance of the 2016 spring meet.