Populous, Churchill Downs Unveil All-New Paddock Experience for 150th Running of the Kentucky Derby

May 2, 2024

Populous, partnering with Churchill Downs, is proud to unveil the all-new Paddock Experience at the legendary Louisville racetrack just in time for the running of the 150th Kentucky Derby on May 4th. The renovation is part of a multi-year transformation of the facility, including brand new premium club experiences, enhanced visibility of the horses and jockeys, new and unique viewing angles, improved patron circulation paths and new amenities for racegoers.

Populous and Churchill Downs worked in concert for nearly three years through the design and construction phase of the Paddock Renovation, transforming the space to be more impactful and memorable for racing fans and bystanders alike. The renovation, which expanded the Paddock from 5,000 sq. feet to over 12,000 sq. feet to accommodate twice as many guests, is the heart of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby.

“Churchill Downs is hallowed and beloved within the racing community, so it was of the utmost importance to preserve the historic grounds while creating a new, rich experience for racegoers in the Paddock,” said Kelly Kerns, senior principal, Populous. “Reimagining race day and how patrons view and interact with the horses and jockeys within the Paddock allowed our team the ability to create robust offerings that will leave a lasting impression for years to come.”

New premium club experiences have been integrated into the Paddock, including the Woodford Reserve Paddock Club and Sport’s Illustrated Club SI. Offering an unprecedented glimpse into the Raceday experience by providing direct visibility of the jockeys’ path and the horses in their relocated saddling stalls, each club boasts a unique palette of materials, inspired from design elements across the region, including custom paneled ceilings; exposed historical elements like brickwork, steel structures and decorative masonry; custom millwork, brass elements and more.

“Over the past decade, we have worked closely with Churchill Downs to create numerous unique hospitality experiences and our team has been honored to help tell Churchill Downs’ story throughout the years,” said Mason Paoli, principal and interior design director, Populous. “For the 150th running, our innovative design solutions are positioned at the heart of the Kentucky Derby experience, the Paddock, and are the most premium to date.”

Entering the track’s main gate, patrons will be greeted by a new, unobstructed view of the Twin Spires, which now showcases more of the original architecture after years of renovations have been stripped away. Enhanced visibility of the restored spires in the Spires Suites also offer direct views of the finish line and Paddock. Additionally, new premium views are offered through the Plaza Balcony, Silks Balcony and Champions Balcony. Each offers a unique, captivating experience for racing fans, encompassing views overlooking the Paddock, premium dining options and an unrivaled Derby experience.

“This year’s running of the Kentucky Derby will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, culminating a rich, 150-year history and unveiling these new, unparalleled additions to our racetrack for fans and racegoers to enjoy,” said Mike Anderson, President of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “Working alongside Populous for over ten years has allowed us the ability to refine the racegoer’s experience, showcasing the grounds and its impeccable beauty for all to enjoy year-round.”

Populous has been involved in numerous additions and hospitality projects at Churchill Downs, including The First Turn Club (completed in 2023), as well as the Homestretch Club (completed in 2022); the Colonnade and Rooftop Terrace (completed in 2018); the Starting Gate Suites (completed in 2017); and The Turf Club, Stakes Room, and Director’s Room renovations (completed in 2015, and Winners’ Circle Suites (completed in 2014).


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