(From Sports Business Journal on November 3, 2103) The Churchill Downs thoroughbred racetrack recently had a $9 million renovation that included a new section known as The Mansion. The Mansion is a mega premium area where tickets start at $7,000 a person. This year’s Kentucky Derby was the first time The Mansion was open and sold spots. People who bought tickets included sports celebrities, entertainers, and CEOs. The Mansion holds about 300 people and provides gourmet food and, most importantly, the best view of the track. “We had messages on our phone of people wanting to renew and extend their deal. Selling The Mansion is not one of the things that keeps me up at night,” said Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery. However, what does keep him up is finding a way to enhance the experience of the Kentucky Derby every year.
Churchill Downs recently spent $27 million to revamp the experience for every person that will be at the track. While The Mansion is at the higher end of entertainment, there are tickets available at $40 a person in the infield. One of the biggest problems Flanery has heard is, “I went to the Kentucky Derby and didn’t even see a horse.” He plans to change this by a recent deal with Panasonic to provide a 15,224-square-foot video board. “The infield customers, they are going to have one of the best seats in the house, because of this new television,” says Flanery.
Churchill also announced plans to increase permanent seating and amenities. These renovations include a new “Rooftop Garden” that will have a VIP lounge and table seating. “One of the most important parts of the Kentucky Derby is the start of the race so we’re creating a VIP garden area right at the starting gate,” Flanery explains. The renovation will also include a 10,000-square-foot food and beverage plaza. Churchill Downs opened in 1875, so rebuilding and renovating is a continuous process. Churchill has invested more that $160 million in new construction since 2001 and has plans to continue.