Saturday, October 9, 2004

Track upgrade ahead of plan


Churchill Downs beating schedule

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - Renovation work at Churchill Downs is just ahead of schedule, so officials are planning to open much of the track's new clubhouse for the fall meet.

Racing will begin Oct. 31 with features of the $121 million renovation on display. The Silks lounge, the first-floor clubhouse restaurant that disappeared during the renovation, now will be on the clubhouse's second floor.

Outside, the popular Paddock Grill is returning to its home near the Aristides statue. Fans will again be allowed to sit in general admission boxes on the finish line and enter Gate 10 near the Longfield Avenue parking lot, skipping the shuttle buses to the track's main entrance - one of the project's many disruptions.

Some of those areas were previewed briefly during the spring before being shut down as construction resumed after the Kentucky Derby.

For the first time, fans will be able to grab ice cream, pizza and sandwiches at a second-floor food court in two adjoining lounges overlooking the paddock. Each holds about 240 people.

Overall, the track's new clubhouse will have seating for 800 people and feature nearly 200 TVs on the second floor. The Trackside off-track betting parlor, which Churchill officials have operated during the last two live racing meets, will remain open during the fall.

"We wanted to make sure we're accommodating every customer we can, particularly this fall," Churchill President Steve Sexton said. "So we just made the decision to keep it open."

Churchill blamed the work partly for a 13 percent drop in average daily attendance and a nearly 9 percent reduction in average daily wagering on track and at the off-track parlor during the spring meet.

Sexton said the project is on track to be finished in April.




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