Thousands of workers put final touches on Churchill Downs ahead - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Thousands of workers put final touches on Churchill Downs ahead of Oaks and Derby

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Monday's tours at Churchill Downs didn't just give race fans a glimpse of history at the world-famous racetrack.

It also gave out-of-towners like Blaze Devillier a behind-the-scenes look at how the track readies for Kentucky Derby week. 

"I love the people here, and it's something different," said Devillier, who lives in New Orleans. "We don't have much like this at home."

The whole track was readying for its biggest week of the year Monday.

"We have approximately 200 year-round employees at Churchill Downs," said Darren Rogers, spokesperson for the track. "When it comes to Oaks an Derby, that number grows to 11,000 people."

It's a rush from opening night to turn over Churchill Downs for the grand stage of Oaks and Derby. In fact, races starts again Tuesday, so the one down day proves a big crunch to get much of the heavy lifting done.

"In the back, I've loaded about 20 boxes of Jack Daniels, beer and even more Bud Light and Budweiser, so [it's] a busy day for me," said Jeff Wiles, one of those 11,000 workers.

All hands are on deck putting finishing touches on the $16 million dollar renovation of the second floor clubhouse.

While the space is reserved for third floor box seat and walk-around ticket holders for Oaks and Derby, it's open to general admission for the rest of the year. 

"We have a better flow for the crowds [and] wider lanes to avoid congestion down here," Rogers said. "We have additional points of sale for food and beverage consumption, more mutual windows ... We've done this to alleviate guests waiting in line."

A faster race-day experience looks like a running theme. The track redesigned the infield entrance from nine to 23 lines to expedite the crowds. 

There are three times as many ATMs, and they're even hauling away the trash faster. 

"We've added 4 times as many trash cans around the facility as we've had in the past," Rogers said. 

All the hustle and bustle for the big party reminded Devillier of home. 

"I think of New Orleans sometimes, and I think of Mardi Gras," he said. "It's about the same."

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