Giant video board keeps Kentucky Derby infield fans connected (a - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Giant video board keeps Kentucky Derby infield fans connected (at least, the ones paying attention)

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Dan Szymanski and Stephanie Coulter Dan Szymanski and Stephanie Coulter
Steve Ambrosio Steve Ambrosio

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – For Dan Szymanski, a truck driver from South Bend, Ind., there’s one big difference between this year’s Kentucky Derby and the last one he came to eight years ago: the giant video board about midway along the backstretch.

Like many infield-goers, Szymanski and his girlfriend Stephanie Coulter staked out a good view of the 15,224-square-foot, high-definition Big Board on Saturday. (From the infield, there aren’t many bad views of the board.)

“You can appease probably 50,000 people with this big screen here. You get to see the horses go by. You get to see them on the screen all the way around the track,” Szymanski said. “You can't beat it... This is a huge improvement.”

Churchill spent $12 million to install the 171-foot-wide screen, which sits 80 feet above the ground, in 2014.

To be sure, many in the infield are oblivious to the thoroughbred racing unfolding on Debry Day. But for those who pay attention to the races, some longtime patrons of the track’s cheapest ticket say the board helps equalize the experience.

“I like it ‘cause in the infield, you really can't see the track, and so it is a great way to keep up with the race,” said Bill White, a corrections officer from Buffalo, New York.

Before the board was installed, “You could go up to the fence and kind of catch a piece of (the race), but you couldn’t really see that much,” said Steve Ambrosio, a retiree from Youngstown, Ohio.

“This is great, I mean, even the people in the grandstands are watching that. So, it really kind of makes the experience the same for everybody.”

Ambrosio should know; Saturday was his 45th consecutive Derby – all experienced from the infield, he said.

Ambrosio added that the programming on the board – racing history, interviews, news – helps pass the time from the early morning when he and son arrive to stake out their spot until the races begin.

“It’s kind of like watching TV while you’re here,” he said. “It gives you something to do for that first four or five hours before you can start betting.”

So, why go the track at all, instead of staying home and watching it on TV?

“Why go to the World Series when you watch it on TV? It’s the World Series,” Ambrosio said. “It’s the Kentucky Derby. A lot of people have it on their bucket list, but I just do it every year.”

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