Louisville Magazine

Breeders Cup 2018

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14 BREEDERS' CUP #BC18 Center and the Paddock Plaza. 2014: Unveiling of the "Big Board," a 15,224-square foot HD LED video board and construction of the Grand- stand Terrace/Rooftop Garden. 2015: Introduction of the Winner's Circle Suites and Courtyard. 2016: Enhancements to the Turf Club, Directors Room and clubhouse balconies. 2017-18: Creation of the Starting Gate Suites and more than 1,800 new seats on three new floors overlooking the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic starting gate; upgrades to the second floor of the clubhouse and food court; and improvements in parking and transportation, including an en- larged bus depot and pedestrian plaza. "We're really focused on the guest experience," says Flanery. "We talk with our guests through surveys and face-to- face meetings with the customer to find out, 'How can we improve the expe- rience?' Every year we ask ourselves, 'What does the guest want that we're not delivering?'" When the Breeders' Cup was first held at Churchill Downs in 1988, night racing was not a glimmer in anyone's eye. Who could have envisioned that permanent lights would be installed in 2010 at a cost of more than $4 million? e popular "Downs After Dark" was born, a promotion used selectively and effectively to create a party atmosphere under the lights and enhance the sport's appeal to young fans in particular. "e focus is on racing, let's give quality racing, but there is half an hour between each race. Folks do their handicapping, but it is a social experi- ence," Flanery says. "When we talk to our customers, they love the horses and they love the time they spend with their friends and their family at the racetrack. "So let's give them opportunities to engage with one another and give them things to talk about, the food experi- ence, the fashion, racing. Music is often a big part of it." As Flanery sees it, the massive spend- ing to transform Churchill Downs was essential. "People have a lot more entertain- ment options than they did 30 years ago," he says. "at doesn't mean that racetracks can't compete. In fact, we have very special venues that provide something unique." It can be argued that no venue is more special than Churchill Downs, which opened in 1875. A visit there is high on the bucket list of racing and non-racing fans alike at home and abroad. e track's history is that rich; the twin spires are that alluring. at made renovation and change especially challenging. As Flanery says, "We have to be relevant in today's en- tertainment environment. We also want to be respectful of our tradition." Breeders' Cup guests should not fret. eir visit will still evoke memories of Personal Ensign staging a seemingly im- possible rally to overtake Winning Col- ors by the narrowest of margins in the 1988 Distaff. ey will recall how they held their breath when the wonderful mare Zenyatta launched her bid from the clouds and barely missed catching Blame in the 2010 Classic. ey will still want to raise a glass to toast the su- perb mare Goldikova, winner of a third consecutive Mile that same autumn. Louisville itself was hardly left behind in the last 30 years in the whirlwind of change that impacted the Breeders' Cup and Churchill Downs. Visitors will see and, more importantly, feel the difference. e city's vibe is different and invigorating, with signs of revival everywhere. "We now have 365-days-a-year tour- ism going on in the city," says Mayor Greg Fischer. "Back in 1988, downtown would have been kind of a ghost town. Now, it's a very vibrant downtown." A huge increase in hotel space, ren- ovation of the Kentucky International Convention Center, the opening of the 22,090-seat KFC Yum! Center and a Personal Ensign and Winning Colors battle for the lead in the 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff. Goldikova triumphs in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Mile.

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