This artists rendering provided by Churchill Downs shows some of the upgrades planned for the clubhouse at Churchill Downs. Churchill Downs is nearing the starting gate for another construction project that will upgrade its clubhouse to maximize revenue f
AP Photo
September 01, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Churchill Downs is nearing the starting gate for another construction project that will upgrade its clubhouse to maximize revenue from the Kentucky Derby, continuing a nearly $200 million renovation phase since 2001 that has given the historic track a facelift.

The $18 million project starting in late fall will renovate space on the clubhouse's third and fourth floors, track officials said Tuesday.

More premium seating will be added, and balconies overlooking the track will be renovated. Ticket prices in the sections start at $1,450 per seat for a package that includes the Derby and Kentucky Oaks, including food and beverages, officials said.

Interior renovations will start after the track's fall meet ends Nov. 29. The work is scheduled for completion ahead of next year's Derby on May 7.

The project will renovate areas upgraded a decade ago during the first and most ambitious renovation project at the Louisville track.

The latest renovations will include open spaces featuring bars, lounge areas and upgraded food service, track officials said.

''We're in the business of creating experiences,'' track President Kevin Flanery said. ''In the entertainment and sports field, folks want something unique. They want memories. So we look at the facility and the experience once people get here as our job to improve every year.''

Prominent areas in the project include the Stakes Room and Turf Club.

The renovated sections will be available throughout the year, but will be most coveted for the Derby and Oaks. Premium seating capacity in the sections being upgraded will increase from 1,886 to 2,660, the track said. Total reserved seating for the Derby will increase from 57,880 to 58,654.

Derby attendance reached a record this year, with more than 170,000 people watching American Pharoah start his run to the Triple Crown.

Revenues from Derby week help pay for race purses offered during Churchill's live racing seasons.

Since late 2001, officials have invested more than $190 million in a series of renovations at the track, which opened in 1875.

Projects included renovating the clubhouse and grandstand, installing permanent lights, creating a new VIP section known as The Mansion, installing a gigantic video board and developing trackside suites occupied on Derby Day by owners of horses running in the race.

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