Kentucky Derby

Churchill Downs unveils new $200 million paddock ahead of 150th Kentucky Derby

The area includes 3,600 new seats and standing room for 3,200.

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Finished just in time for the 150th Kentucky Derby is Churchill Downs’ latest enhancement that promises to give spectators a keen look at the 20 thoroughbreds competing in Saturday’s milestone race.

Some fans will have a closer view than others in the track’s new $200 million paddock that offers a clear vista of the Twin Spires from inside and allows spectators to observe horses from several levels of a stadium-like layout as they parade around a circle before heading to the track.



Watch NBC10 Boston news for free, 24/7, wherever you are.


Get Boston local news, weather forecasts, lifestyle and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Boston’s newsletters.

“The Twin Spires are back in focus, and that’s very important to us,” Churchill Downs spokesman Darren Rogers said. “The Twin Spires say Churchill Downs.”

The new design offers hints of a horseshoe all around, from the giant video tote boards on opposite ends atop the walls to the circular path in front of the stalls.

Compared to the former square layout where spectators outside the gates huddled 10 deep over each other while celebrities and owners rubbed elbows inside, the new paddock features 20 covered stalls in front of the path beneath several viewing levels.

Rogers said the paddock area was expanded from 5,100 to 12,000 square feet and more than doubled capacity from 1,000 to 2,400 people. The area includes 3,600 new seats and standing room for 3,200.

The lower level features descending rows of standing tables. The upper levels include a plaza overlook with several balconies and outdoor loges.

Deep-pocketed patrons can observe horses in their stalls or heading to the track from either the Paddock Club or Club SI, one of two premium club lounges located on opposite sides of the tunnel leading to and from the track. Rogers likened the tunnel design to the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium, where players pass from the locker room to the field and back through a glass-enclosed corridor as spectators watch and cheer from clubs on both sides.

Another tunnel that goes beneath the grandstand to the track is lined with Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels and offers a scent of Kentucky's trademark spirit.

Those exclusive views don't come cheap, especially this weekend: The Paddock Club costs $15,000 per person while entry to Club SI is $7,500 each. Both are sold out for a bucket list event expected to draw more than 150,000 people.

Those prime areas feature horse racing artifacts from legendary jockeys, with Club SI displaying Sports Illustrated magazine covers of the Kentucky Derby and other notable races and horses.

The track’s latest renovation was unveiled on Saturday’s spring meet opening night highlighted by the draws for both the Kentucky Derby and Oaks. The horsemen who will use the area regularly seem impressed by the new digs.

“It’s really, really nice,” said Louisville-born trainer Brad Cox, whose preparation has included introducing Derby entrants Just A Touch and Catching Freedom to the paddock to get them used to their surroundings before doing it for real on Derby day. "Really nice setup, first class and we’re excited about getting to use it.”

The 2024 Kentucky Derby is less than a week away. Join us as we delve into the rich history and fascinating details behind one of the most historic horse races.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us