LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — The global leader in the thoroughbred industry is expanding in the new year.
Keeneland officials announced plans for a $93 million expansion on Wednesday, highlighted by the construction of a permanent Paddock Building, a visitors center, and a re-imagined saddling experience.
“We’ll be able to sell tickets to about 1400 more people for public seating. Right now, we sell out of tickets in 15 minutes, so we realize we have a supply-and-demand problem,” Shannon Arvin, Keeneland CEO and president said.
According to Keenland, the expansion is the largest undertaken since Keeneland opened nearly 90 years ago and marks the first major construction at the track since Keeneland Library was built in 2002.
“We spent a great deal of time looking at racing venues and sports facilities around the world for inspiration,” Arvin said. “We also talked to our stakeholders and fans to understand what they love most about spending a day at Keeneland, whether it be during racing, sales, or another occasion. Keeneland’s fans are the best in the industry, and we know the demand for tickets is often greater than the supply. This new facility will allow us to provide a variety of unique experiences, allowing more fans to enjoy the finest hospitality in sports.”
Located alongside the Keeneland Paddock and Walking Ring, the new Paddock Building will expand viewing and dining experiences, improve hospitality during Keeneland’s Thoroughbred auctions, and provide new venues for special events year-round.
Furthering Keeneland’s initiative for equine safety, the saddling stalls will be repositioned to provide the safest environment possible for the horses and jockeys and to give fans an “unmatched” view of the Saddling Paddock.
The three-level Paddock building will extend the entire length of the Paddock and Walking Ring and will feature a variety of ticketed experiences available to the public, including traditional sit-down dining, new bar concepts, a panoramic rooftop, and more. A new Jockeys Quarters will be housed within the building, and jockeys will walk directly through the venue before each race.
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“Keeneland is a historic destination for our local families and travelers, and this exciting investment will create more opportunities for everyone to enjoy while boosting our signature horse racing industry and Kentucky’s $12.9 billion tourism industry,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “The horse racing industry is as indispensable to our economy as it is to our culture, and after a record-breaking year for tourism in 2022, leaders like Keeneland are going to help ensure Kentucky’s success continues for years to come.”
Keeneland is working with state and local governments to secure incentive funds to support the nearly $93 million project. On Wednesday, Keeneland received preliminary approval from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority (KTDFA) for incentives to support the project totaling up to $23.2 million.
“From the time that we were formed in 1936, to perpetuate the best in the sport and to be a model racetrack, we believe that in order to be a model racetrack, we’ve got to continue to evolve and offer premium experiences for our guests. So we’re really excited about being able to do that,” Arvin said.
Construction is scheduled to begin in January 2024 at the conclusion of Keeneland’s January Horses of All Ages Sale. Plans are to complete the project in the fall of 2025. Keeneland’s race meets and sales will continue at full capacity during construction.