SBJ/August 6-12, 2012/Facilities

Want in Churchill’s Mansion? Ask Legends

Churchill Downs has hired Legends Sales and Marketing to launch a national campaign to sell tickets for The Mansion, a new ultra-premium experience for high-end patrons attending the Kentucky Derby.

A rendering shows the Library, one of six luxurious rooms planned for The Mansion.
CHURCHILL DOWNS
The Mansion, with 322 ticketed spaces, will take over the sixth floor of the clubhouse, which had served as the media center since 2005. The redesign is themed after a stately Southern mansion with six luxurious rooms.

Those premium ticket holders get to watch the races from a private outdoor terrace directly above the finish line and can stroll back to a second veranda overlooking the paddock, where the horses are saddled before the race.

The perks extend to custom meals served by Levy Restaurants, the track’s food provider, access to a private wine cellar, and butler and concierge service. Ticket prices are $9,000 to $12,500 a year for The Mansion with three-, five- and seven-year commitments, industry sources said.

Track officials refused to disclose ticket prices and would not confirm those numbers. Track spokesman John Asher said pricing for The Mansion for the two-day Derby and Kentucky Oaks races will be more than $5,000, currently the highest price for a non-PSL seat for those events.

The Mansion ticket prices are “still below what we know to be the purchase price for our prime tickets on the secondary market,” Asher said.

With those and top-shelf amenities in mind, track officials reached out to Legends, a company co-owned by the Cowboys and Yankees, and a firm selling suites for the new Formula One track in Austin, Texas, an event catering to an international audience.

After an online survey a few years ago showed that Derby goers came from every continent except Antarctica, the track has sought to expand its search for new ticket buyers, said Tricia Amburgey, Churchill’s vice president of sales.

The target market covers the jet set, where for example, a woman attending the Derby for the first time can arrange a “custom hat appointment” through The Mansion’s concierge to fit in with the headwear tradition that plays such a big role in the Derby experience, Amburgey said.

“We didn’t want to just move money around, have people say, ‘Oh, well, I’ve been in Millionaires Row [two areas on the fourth and sixth floors where celebrities congregate at the Derby], now I will try this,’” she said. “We are really trying to go after a different customer for this experience.”

A rendering shows the foyer at The Mansion, which will have 322 ticketed spaces.
CHURCHILL DOWNS
Churchill Downs has one to two people handling all ticket sales for the Derby and felt it made sense to outsource sales for The Mansion.

“We did not want to staff up to attack the California market and the London market, all the different markets where Legends already has a presence,” she said.

Megan Baker, a Legends sales executive who sold suites for Cowboys Stadium, will lead the marketing effort for The Mansion from Legends’ offices in New York. Baker will travel to meet with major corporations and other groups, said Mike Ondrejko, Legends’ chief operating officer.

Legends will receive a fee based on the success of the sales program, he said.
In addition, Chris Quinn, former vice president of sales and marketing for Santa Anita Park, is consulting on The Mansion project, as well as the Rose Bowl, where Legends is selling premium seats tied to the stadium’s renovation.

“Part of the job is getting people who haven’t experienced the Derby to understand what this event is really all about,” Ondrejko said. “Once that happens, I think the property will sell itself.”

There may be a handful of situations where prospects will be invited to the track for a firsthand look at the project but in most cases Legends will market the space through the use of online applications, Ondrejko said.

Construction on The Mansion, part of $9 million in renovations, the most significant upgrades to the facility in the last seven years, will be completed before early May, the week of the Derby and the Oaks.

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