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Volume 24 No. 115


Churchill Downs Inc. yesterday formally announced the creation of “The Mansion at Churchill Downs” which will “be carved from the current press box and an adjacent room once set aside for big bettors,” according to Gregory Hall of the Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL. The Mansion is part of a $9M renovation and “will offer the best view of the track." But it "may not be used much beyond Oaks and Derby days -- when 320 invitation-only customers will pay thousands to get in and enjoy the comforts of home.” Track President and CDI Senior VP Kevin Flanery said that packages “will begin in the thousands of dollars for Oaks and Derby.” A track spokesperson said that pricing is “still being finalized for other days.” Though use of The Mansion outside of Derby week “will be limited, Flanery said it could be available for an occasional wedding or other event.” The move “furthers the Louisville-based gambling and racing company’s efforts to maximize profits from its signature events.” Flanery said, “It is an experience a notch above anything else that’s ever been offered at Churchill Downs.” The project also includes “demolition of the Paddock Pavilion, now used as an auxiliary press center.” Flanery said that replacing the pavilion will be a 30,000-square-foot “open area, easing the sometimes tight crowds by the paddock and creating new food and beverage stations, lounge seating and picnic areas.” A new media center will be built “on the first floor in an area once used for offices” (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 8/1).

SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY: The DAILY RACING FORM’s Marty McGee wrote project “will attempt to mimic a lavish southern-style mansion replete with amenities such as a dining room with a gourmet chef, a library, a private bar, and a private elevator, not to mention a balcony that affords a spectacular finish-line view of the racetrack.” Flanery added that the facility will seat “at least 320 people, with ‘customized’ seating costs that would vary by a number of factors that he declined to specify” (, 7/31). The THOROUGHBRED TIMES’ Frank Angst noted guests at The Mansion “will have access to a private wine cellar, as well as a personal concierge service.” Churchill Downs is “contacting potential patrons of [the track] with details of the amenities and personalized service” (, 7/31).

Daytona Int'l Speedway Owner Int'l Speedway Corp. "has inked a deal to install permanent cellphone antennas at the Speedway that will boost reception regardless of a person's wireless telecommunications provider," according to Skyler Swisher of the Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL. Coverage also will "be expanded at 11 other ISC tracks, including Talladega Superspeedway, Darlington Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway." ISC VP/Multi-Channel Marketing & CIO Craig Neeb said, "If you go out to any public event, you expect coverage. That's just the expectation. This is a key investment that we are really excited about." ISC "hopes to have the new system installed" at Daytona as early as the '13 Speedweeks in February. Previously, Sprint's title sponsorship deal with NASCAR for the Sprint Cup Series "gave it the sole responsibility of boosting cellphone reception during NASCAR events." But fans with coverage from other providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, "were often left with silence on the other end of the line." When Sprint's title sponsorship was renewed in December, NASCAR "pushed to have that stipulation removed." American Tower Corp. and Corning Cable Systems "will design and install a system that ISC officials say will produce a 'noticeable difference' for race fans." Daytona Int'l Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said that boosting cellphone coverage also will "assist the sport's efforts to expand its presence in social media." He said that more fans will be "able to access Facebook and other sites through their data plans." Neeb said that talks are "already under way for a new project -- providing wireless Internet to fans at the track" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 8/1).

MAKING IT PERSONAL: USA TODAY's Dustin Long notes to "combat sagging attendance, NASCAR track operators are adding personal touches to make races more enjoyable for fans -- and to keep them from staying home and watching on TV." From "concerts to paved parking lots to improved Wi-Fi, tracks are enhancing entertainment options to fill their increasingly empty grandstands." Based on NASCAR crowd estimates, attendance for Sprint Cup points races "fell 8.5% from 2009 to 2011." Attendance through the first 20 points races this season is "down 2.4% from a year ago." SMI President & COO Marcus Smith said that fans "wanted more access to drivers, more family-friendly experiences and more comfort." He said that SMI had "spent between $30 million and $80 million a year on track upgrades in recent years" (USA TODAY, 8/1).

SPARKING INTEREST: CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS' Danny Ecker noted as NASCAR "struggles to gain ground in the Chicago market, the racing series and Chicagoland Speedway are trying to spark more Windy City interest in its events." Part of the effort "to turn that around is coming from stunts like the one NASCAR held outside the House of Blues [last] month, bringing together marketing heads from the Joliet track, sponsors, NASCAR itself and Sprint Cup driver Kyle Busch to launch its new 'NASCAR Contenders Live' event." The Sprint Cup Geico 400 was previously held in July, but Chicagoland Speedway President Scott Paddock said the race was moved to the front of the Chase For the Cup lineup in '11 "to give it the big event platform that it deserves" (, 7/30).

The city of Vancouver is looking to develop about 600,000 square feet of "job space" around Rogers Arena, the home of the Canucks, and BC Place, where the Lions play football and Whitecaps play soccer, according to Frances Bula of the GLOBE & MAIL. Landowners in that area "are trying to figure out who they’ll get as tenants." Aquilini Development President David Negrin, who runs the division for Canucks co-Owner & Chair Francesco Aquilini, said, "We have our work cut out for us to fill that space. It’s just a tough location because it’s on the edge of the (central business district).” Negrin’s company "is the first to tackle the challenge, with three unusual towers recently approved by council that will be built in the corners of their property around the arena." Negrin said, "What we’re going to do is move all the Canucks’ offices from the arena into the tower. That will get us kick-started." The group will also "move all its company offices from its current site, a heritage building in the traditional downtown, into the new project." Negrin hopes that businesses "with a sports slant or entertainment focus may gravitate to the area" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/31).