Churchill Downs is getting a television upgrade.
A big one.
In a $12-million project in collaboration with Panasonic, the Louisville racetrack is erecting a 15,224-square foot high-definition video screen beyond the direct track on the backstretch.
The screen will tower 80 feet above the barn area at about the midway point of the backstretch.
It will be visible from more than 56,000 seats in the grandstands and suites, as well as to thousands of fans in the 26 acre infield,” said John Asher, vice president of racing communications at Churchill.
“Now every fan on the racetrack property will get the opportunity to see horses and get a close up look at the race,” he said.
Once completed, the screen will be one of the largest high definition video screens in the world.
A factor that led to the screen’s construction was an influx of comments from fans saying they came to the Derby and never saw a horse, Asher said.
Asher said they don’t expect any disadvantages from the addition of the screen and have consulted jockeys and trainers to ensure their safety, and the safety of the horses.
“We believe it will significantly enhance the experience of being at the Kentucky Derby,” Asher said.
The screen is expected to compete with the famed Twin Spires, in terms of height, but Asher said it will not take anything away from the majesty of the track’s trademark architecture.
He said the twin spires will always be the “heart and soul” of Churchill Downs.
“Fans actually may get a closer look of them they ever have,” he said. “On the big screen.”
Construction is set to be completed by April 27, just in time for the spring meet—and the next Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks—at Churchill Downs. It will be in use for all races during the season and other special events that are held at the track.
“It’s a pretty unique situation,” he said.