Churchill Downs racing to finish renovations - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Churchill Downs racing to finish renovations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The weather may not feel like it, but the opening of Churchill Downs spring meet is only about a month away. And the track will look much different than when it closed for the season last fall.

Churchill Downs is spending more than $26 million to improve the experience for its customers at the track.

Constructions crews are working seven days a week to make sure the new Churchill Downs gets smoothly out of the starting gate.

They're building a 51,000 square foot terrace just east of the existing grandstand - adding more seating, more restrooms and more concessions.

Crews are also erecting the world's largest video screen, called the "Big Board." It's 15,000 square feet of super-high definition.

"We did a lot of research after last year's Oaks and Derby, talking to our customers trying to figure out what they were looking for, what we cold do to make their experience better," said Ryan Jordan, General Manager of Churchill Downs.

The track is also renovating 15,000 square feet of indoor space.

It's all part of Churchill Downs' effort to transform itself from just a horse-track, to a full-scale entertainment venue.

"We're in competition with sporting venues throughout the country with all of the amenities," said Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery. "We've got to deal with the fact that people can sit at home and watch it on TV. We want to make sure that they can have a better experience than they can on their couch at home.

Larry Godbey has lived in the shadow of Churchill Downs for 75 years.

He can see the Big Board from his front yard. He says despite the additional lighting and sound, he still considers the track to be a good neighbor.

"I don't mind it. I'm used to the changes. I enjoy the people. I've met a lot of them. I've made a lot of friends," he said.

"They know how important Churchill Downs, the Derby is to this community. And when you talk to them, they want to be a part of making that tradition continue," said Flanery.

While the harsh winter did cause some construction delays, the contractor is confident the project will cross the finish line on time.

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