Unboxing Churchill Downs’ box look

Rendering of planned Starting Gate Suites at Churchill Downs to be ready for 2018 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup.

The latest project at Churchill Downs will make the historic facility look a little more linear while helping the bottom line.

Renovations completed before the 2005 Kentucky Derby led some to complain that the Downs’ venerable Twin Spires had been dwarfed by two large boxes on either side. Contributing to that aesthetic was the lack of a single roofline where there basically had been one on the northern side of the spires for decades.

The roof went from the spires level, up three stories of Jockey Club Suites and then back down roughly to the spires-roof height as seating went northward approaching Central Avenue.

Louisville-based Churchill Downs Inc.’s flagship racetrack announced a $37 million project Wednesday that will fix that non-linear look.

The three-story Starting Gate Suites will be built just north of the existing Jockey Club Suites in time to overlook the start of the 2018 Derby. That means they’ll also be ready in time for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup that is set to return to the track that fall.

The total project includes 1,800 seats spread between the suites, new third-floor grandstand seats and inside seating. And the rooflines of the Jockey Club and Starting Gate suites will be close to the same height, reducing some of the boxy look.

The Starting Gate Suites will bring the total number of suites on both sides of the spires to about 130. Premium seating is a key ingredient for Churchill Downs Inc. making the Derby more profitable every year.

A $16 million sprucing up of the second floor clubhouse is set to begin at the conclusion of the current fall meet.

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