A rendering of planned renovations for Turfway Park

A rendering of planned renovations for Turfway Park

Courtesy of Turfway Park

Turfway Park Plans to Overhaul Grandstand

Churchill Downs also making progress on historical racing facility.

While not committing to a timetable, Turfway Park officials have unveiled a $25 million grandstand renovation planned to become reality when the Northern Kentucky track adds historical racing games.

In a presentation at the Feb. 20 Kentucky Horse Racing Commission meeting, Turfway general manager Chip Bach unveiled plans for a revamped entrance that effectively would make the structure's current second floor its entry way. Plans call for one side of that second floor to be devoted to historical racing, games that look like slot machines but base payouts on a pari-mutuel formula and winning combinations on previously run horse races. The other side of the second floor would see the addition of a new simulcast area.

Bach explained to the commission that since the track was approved to add historical racing games in December of 2015, structural issues with the facility were discovered that had to be addressed before Turfway could move forward on any plans for additional gaming. He said those structural issues have been addressed.

Bach couldn't commit to a timetable for the addition of the gaming and track renovations but noted that Turfway owner JACK Entertainment recently has spent $10.5 million to facilitate moving forward on the project. He said the company has paid off about $10 million in debt to make it more attractive to lenders needed to finance the $25 million project and has spent $500,000 on plans and drawings of the renovations.

As part of the plan, Bach said Turfway will make a new request for 500 games, as opposed to the 250 games it currently is approved for. Initial plans had called for those 250 games to be located on the first floor as part of a $7 million project. Those plans will be out in favor of the new $25 million design.

"JACK is very interested in this project," Bach assured the commissioners Tuesday.

Turfway and Churchill Downs are the only two tracks in the state that currently do not have the benefit of a historical racing facility. But Churchill plans to open such a facility this year at its current Trackside training center property.

Churchill Downs racetrack president Kevin Flanery said at Tuesday's KHRC meeting that plans for that 600-game operation are on schedule for an opening in early fall. The facility is designed for 1,000 machines if there proves to be demand.

"We are full speed ahead on the facility," Flanery said. "By mid-March hopefully we'll have the initial steel structure in place. We hope to have everything done in September or October 2018 and have the facility up and running." 

Flanery said the $60 million facility—counting construction and technology costs—will be called Derby City Gaming. He said many of the games will be themed around horses.

Flanery noted that on Feb. 14 Churchill Downs Inc. reached a long-term agreement with Ainsworth Game Technology to develop the historical racing machines for CDI. 

"Ainsworth has done tremendous work to deliver a modern and exciting pari-mutuel product," Flanery said in a release. "We are eager to install the Ainsworth historical racing machines in our Derby City Gaming facility because we know they will generate significant revenue for Kentucky purses and go a long way to strengthen the Commonwealth's racing circuit."

Flanery said Tuesday that CDI-owned United Tote and Brisnet are providing the expertise on the pari-mutuel aspect of the historical gaming.